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What could replace the Tower Heights public housing development
Tower Heights.jpg
Marietta-based Walton Communities has partnered with the Gainesville Housing Authority in proposing to tear down the 34-unit Tower Heights Apartments public housing complex and build the 160-unit Walton Harbor. - photo by Jeff Gill

A new mixed-income, 160-unit complex will likely be replacing the Tower Heights Apartments public housing development, after the Gainesville City Council unanimously approved the change Tuesday.

The Walton Harbor development would be on 7 acres at 320 Tower Heights Road, east of Pearl Nix Parkway. The Council approved rezoning of the land from residential to planned unit development.

The existing Tower Heights complex has 32 units in 16 structures and a community center. Tower Heights will be demolished, and existing residents will either receive a housing voucher or be relocated into available public housing units.

Beth Brown, executive director of the Gainesville Housing Authority, said the authority has 1,400 families on its waiting list and the waiting list has been closed for two years.

“We’re having difficulty meeting needs of the community,” Brown said. “…We feel this is another piece in the solution to the affordable housing issues we’re having.”

One Gainesville resident said at a hearing Tuesday that he hoped other sites, like the former Hall County Jail property in midtown Gainesville, could be considered for affordable housing to minimize loss of trees and the effect on the natural environment. Councilman Sam Couvillon said plans for the new complex include planting of trees.

Walton Harbor, the new complex, will be built in two phases and will be a mixture of low-income tax credit housing, public housing and senior housing. It will be developed by Marietta-based Walton Communities, which also developed Walton Summit, a mixed-income complex off Atlanta Street. The third and final phase of that complex is set to be done later this year.

Matthew Teague of Walton Communities said the next step is applying for tax credits. When a decision comes, likely later this year, if the development is approved, architects could get to work and property improvements may begin in late 2020.

Brown said the new complex would likely be ready for move-in two years after Tower Heights residents move out, but work would not begin until everyone had been relocated.

Council members approved the rezoning under the condition that sidewalks be built on both sides of Tower Heights Road adjacent to the complex, as well as on one side of Jones Street and Pearl Nix Parkway to provide pedestrian accessibility to the nearby Lakeshore Village shopping center and to the existing crosswalk at Pearl Nix Parkway and Shallowford Road.

The Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board had recommended the project for approval on April 9.

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