Mixed-income development becoming a reality
By Toni Stauffer
Despite the blustery, bone-chilling weather, a large crowd gathered at the corner of 5th Avenue and 17th Street on the morning of Dec. 5 for the Whitewater Village groundbreaking ceremony. Housing Authority director Mary Mayrose exhibited boundless enthusiasm as she welcomed everyone, thanking the community, HA staff and the many sponsors who are helping bring the Whitewater Village project to fruition.
“It takes teamwork to make the dream work,” said Mayrose. “What you see before you today is progress, what you see before you today is change and what you see before you today is a community committed to bringing opportunity to all. This project will not be just apartment units. It will bring an estimated $42 million into this community. It will allow families to live in brand new units with amenities they never thought would be available to them. Most importantly, this is just our first phase on site. We have two more phases of Whitewater Village planned that we will develop into a mixed-income, mixed-use property.”
The Phenix City Housing Authority demolished 20 buildings of 104 obsolete housing units to make way for 82 newly constructed apartments in the first phase of on-site revitalization of Riverview Court Apartments. This is the first major redevelopment of the historic housing complex in 65 years, keeping with the PCHA motto “It’s a new day in affordable housing for Phenix City.”
“We are moving forward Phenix City. We are no longer living in the shadow of Columbus, or what they may be doing,” said Mayrose. “We are forging our own path, and we are building community and providing economic opportunity for our families and our community. We love our neighbors across the river and know that they, too, celebrate our success.”
Under the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversion program, and with development partner Hollyhand Companies, Inc., PCHA secured $1.3 million in nine-percent low-income housing tax credits from the Alabama Housing Finance Authority (AHFA) and partnerships with Wells Fargo, Bellwether Enterprise and Freddie Mac.
“The excitement we’ve generated in the neighborhood with our redevelopment plans is overwhelming,” said Mayrose, “but the support we’ve received from our partnership with the city of Phenix City and our stakeholders is inspiring. It makes us all realize that we truly are reshaping and redesigning this community, not just a housing site.”
According to the PCHA, Whitewater Village will feature one, two and three-bedroom units ranging in size from 850 to 1,500 square feet. It will boast a community room, outdoor playground, covered picnic pavilion, computer center, exercise fitness room and a gazebo. Forty-seven of the units will be developed under RAD and the remaining 35 units will be traditional project-based Section 8 housing. The RAD conversion allows PCHA to leverage its public/private debt and equity to create a more modern housing stock such as Whitewater Village, which will become the crown jewel of the authority’s housing portfolio.
“It’s amazing to stand on this site and see the progress that has already taken place here,” said Barbara Wallace, the multi-family manager with Alabama Housing Authority. “The local support we have had in this community has been amazing. We’re so excited about the opportunities that are going to be here for the families. We’re going to be offering owner-provided services to them. We just really want this to be a place people are proud to call home.”
Riverview Court Apartments were originally built in 1940 along the Chattahoochee River. PCHA said the revitalization of Riverview’s existing 306 units also capitalizes on the current transformation of the Downtown neighborhood and the momentum already generated by the City of Phenix City and private investors. Whitewater Village – as well as the site’s future phases – is expected to blend in seamlessly with the other major commercial and residential improvements in the area.
“This is just the beginning of our overall vision of a mixed-income and mixed-use development,” said Mayrose. “We foresee our next phases, including market-rate housing with potential river views and retail opportunities, like coffee shops, book stores and restaurants.”
“This is another momentous day for our city,” said Mayor Eddie Lowe. “It takes a partnership to build a championship, and that’s what we’re doing in Phenix City. We have a lot of great partners.” He added, “One of the greatest things that God gives all of us is vision, and the greatest vision we can have collectively is to move our community and our city forward. That’s what we’re doing.”
After the speeches, Mayrose, the mayor, representatives from the city and sponsors picked up hard hats, shovels and turned over some dirt in a symbolic gesture to physically add their hands to the Whitewater Village development project, which is slated to be completed December of next year.