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Gainesville Midtown project draws support and skepticism
Enclave development replaces low-income housing with upscale townhouses
Ricky Stone, owner of S&H Uniform Service, said he’s curious to see how proposed townhouses will fare in an area dominated by industry. - photo by Carlos Galarza

S&H Uniform Service owner Ricky Stone has been running the family business for more than 35 years.

Stone said he’s seen a lot of things come and go. He points down the street from his location, 541 Myrtle St. SW in Gainesville, where a laundromat used to be.

Now Stone looks across to Pine Street where a 4-acre tract is being cleared, cleaned and graded to make way for the Enclave, a cluster of two-story townhouses where dilapidated homes used to sit.

“They took it down quick,” Stone said of the rotting rental homes demolished over the past two weeks. “That there was always rental housing.”

Stone doesn’t know what to make of the Enclave and its projected $1,000 a month rent in an area dominated by industry.

“You have a lot of low income over here,” he said. “I like to think positive, and hope it does well.”

Steve McKibbon and business partner Robbie Robison are investing more than $6 million to redevelop what they and others call one of the most blighted areas in Gainesville. They plan to build 45 townhouses.

Calixto Leal is the pastor of Iglesia de Dios Evangelio Completo on Willis Street that fronts the Enclave project.

Leal said the homes that were demolished were in deplorable conditions, but people renting them were paying $500 or more in rent.

Having moved to the area six months ago with his wife, Leal said finding affordable housing in Gainesville has been a struggle. He said the rent at the Enclave would be out of reach to most people in the surrounding area.

Still, he said the project would benefit the community.

“The houses that were there were in very bad condition,” Leal said. “This project could help bring jobs. As for our congregation, we are here to be good neighbors and serve the community.”

Don “Porky” Pinson said he’s been an employee 41 years at North Georgia Supply, 806 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

“I came to work here right out of high school,” Pinson said.

Before news of the Enclave project surfaced, Pinson said the mail carrier had been alerted something going on because he was delivering notices that told people living in the run-down rentals they had to move out.

“Personally, I think this area is too industrial, still,” Pinson said. “I know there’s been a lot of redevelopment of blighted areas in the Atlanta area that had success. We’ll see what happens with these townhouses.”

David Stover, another employee at North Georgia Supply, said he saw only Hispanics living in the homes that were razed.

“A lot of them you’d see walking to work at the poultry plants,” Stover said.

Stover said he disagrees with those who say the area is “blighted “

“To me it’s an industrial area with mostly working, low-income people,” Stover said. “I wouldn’t call it a bad area.”

On Tuesday, Gainesville City Council is poised to approve a resolution to approve Tax Allocation District funding of up to $769,058 for the Enclave redevelopment project, which is bordered by MLK Jr. Boulevard and Pine, Davis and Willis streets.

The funding will front costs for cleanup, demolition and asbestos remediation, but city officials say the increase in tax revenues once the redevelopment is completed will more than cover what the developers are requesting.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

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