Standing amid the remains of the Atlanta Street homes Thursday, Broughton Cochran harkened back to his time as a social worker helping single mothers and kids in broken homes.
“Needless to say, I saw some pretty distressful circumstances, but at times I would find children that had abnormally high self-esteem and didn’t exhibit the typical distress,” said Cochran, board chairman for the Gainesville Housing Authority.
From the rubble of 65-year-old Green Hunter Homes, a new apartment complex offering at affordable and market prices will rise in the coming years. City officials gathered Thursday for a groundbreaking ceremony.
“No longer will an Atlanta Street address automatically indicate that the child is from a low-income family,” Cochran said.
As a social worker, Cochran said he knew his clients needed the best housing options available. Before a family could have the “safe, sanitary and stable” housing they wanted, they needed a “steppingstone.”
“For almost 70 years, the Gainesville Housing Authority has been providing steppingstones for distressed families in Gainesville,” Cochran said.
Green Hunter Homes, commonly referred to as the Atlanta Street Apartments, were first occupied in 1951.
The Gainesville Housing Authority is partnering with Walton Communities LLC for the 252-apartment project. The first residents will move in next year, and construction will go through three phases.
After years of putting “Band-Aids on old buildings,” Cochran said it became “economically impractical” to continue renovating.
“It served its purpose well, but both the physical structures of these buildings as well as the way affordable housing was defined and delivered has become outdated,” Cochran said.
Gainesville Housing Authority Executive Director Beth Brown previously told The Times it would cost about $18.1 million to upgrade the housing complex and would be cheaper to rebuild.
Earlier this week, Gainesville City Council approved the transfer of a section of Atlanta Street to the Gainesville Housing Authority that will add to the size of the new development.