“It’s a ghost town around here,” Ashley Moore said about the public housing complex on Atlanta Street in Gainesville.
Demolition of the complex’s 131 units is scheduled to begin in November, and there are only about 20 families remaining at the property now.
It was once common to see dozens of individuals, men and women, sitting on their stoops every afternoon, or hanging outside Peppers’ Market at the corner entrance to the complex.
Some men were still found there Wednesday afternoon, but the man working behind the counter said business has taken a dive and the convenience store is “really hurting.”
And violent crime, as well as drug dealing, was so frequent that both longtime and newer residents generally welcomed the opportunity to relocate when it was presented to them.
Two young girls riding their bicycles along Atlanta Street on Wednesday afternoon said their mother used to not let them play outside on their own.
It is so much quieter and vacant here now, however, and their smiles indicated how much they like the atmosphere.
Beth Brown, executive director of the Gainesville Housing Authority, said about half of the families left at the complex will be transferred to other public housing units in the city.
The others have or will receive vouchers that allow them to get subsidized housing elsewhere, and all are likely to be relocated before the year ends.
“We are still on schedule to begin … construction in December,” Brown said.
The Housing Authority has partnered with Walton Communities LLC to redevelop the property with the help of $10 million received through a tax credit program.
Construction of 252 new public, affordable and market-rate units will occur over three phases, with move-in dates likely to come in 2018.
A city worker was on site Wednesday to begin marking where utility and sewer lines are located in preparation for redevelopment.
Meanwhile, Moore packed her last belongings into a truck and left Atlanta Street in the rearview mirror as the sweltering sun beat down on her brow.
The mother of three young children, Moore said finding a place she can afford in the city with her voucher has been difficult and what is available has been substandard.
One measure has long defined affordability: whether you are spending 30 percent or more of your income on housing costs.
This has been a common challenge for the families relocating from Atlanta Street, and it highlights the city’s affordable housing crunch.
But Moore said the prevalence of violent, drug and property crime at the complex had taken its toll on her family. She believes a move, despite some of the downsides, will ultimately improve her children’s future.
“I feel like it’s an upgrade,” she said. “I’m glad they’re tearing it down.”