New approach to housing complex
Paul Donsky - Staff
Thursday, July 7, 2005
The McDaniel Glenn public housing development in Mechanicsville,
just south of downtown, has only a few weeks to live.
The sprawling, 41-acre complex of low-slung brick apartments will
be demolished in August to make way for a gleaming, $144 million
urban village of condos, townhomes and live/work lofts that promise
to transform the long-troubled neighborhood just southwest of downtown.
McDaniel Glenn residents have been moving out since last year,
when they were notified of the plans.
Once a thriving middle-class community, Mechanicsville fell on
hard times in recent decades, becoming a dangerous area overrun
with crime and drugs.
Blocks of dark red-brick apartments, separated by dusty patches
of grass, are stained with graffiti. Many windows are broken.
"There is a lot of shouting and drug selling," said
Everline Brown, who's called McDaniel Glenn home for 31 years.
Brown said she was looking forward to leaving because of her three
grandchildren, whom she's raising.
"They don't have to be around all the drugs and fighting
going on," Brown said. "There's too much crime."
Residents have the option of moving to another city public housing
development or, if they qualify, use a Section 8 voucher to rent
apartments or houses.
Ambitious new design
At McDaniel Glenn, most of the development's 293 units are boarded
up, awaiting demolition.
An artist's rendering of the new McDaniel Glenn shows a sleek
streetscape that looks like a combination of New Orleans' French
Quarter and Midtown Atlanta.
On the left side of the street are two three-story apartment buildings
with storefronts on the ground floor and second-floor balconies.
On the right is a taller, modern-looking building with sharp angles
and lots of glass.
Most of the project is being funded privately.
The Atlanta Housing Authority is using about $20 million of federal
Hope VI grant funds to subsidize the rent of a portion of the new
homes to make them affordable to low-income residents.
Former McDaniel Glenn residents will have the chance to move back
to the new complex when it is completed in four years. About 38
percent, or 320, of the 833 new units will be reserved for low-income
families who qualify for public housing assistance.
But the new McDaniel Glenn will have much more strict entrance
policies than the old property. Residents with certain criminal
backgrounds, for instance, will not be allowed back in.
Change in system
Atlanta Housing Authority officials are systematically reshaping
the city's public housing stock.
The idea, they say, is to remove the public housing developments
of old that concentrated large numbers of low-income families.
The neighborhoods became isolated, dysfunctional pockets plagued
by crime and drugs.
The housing authority already has redeveloped notorious developments
like Techwood Homes near Georgia Tech's campus and East Lake Meadows,
an east Atlanta community so violent it was known as "Little
Mixed-income communities are being built in their place. Private
companies, not the AHA, are building and managing the properties,
including McDaniel Glenn.
"What we wanted to do is . . . create a better social environment," said
Renee Glover, executive director of the AHA. "Then we can
provide for the families who are in need of the program a real
opportunity, thereby allowing families to tap into their God-given
potential so they can achieve the American dream."
Many residents are glad for the opportunity to get out of the
public housing development.
But some say they've had trouble finding Section 8 housing and
fear they may have to leave the Mechanicsville neighborhood, which
they like because it's close to downtown and Grady Memorial Hospital.
The redevelopment is sure to fundamentally change the neighborhood.
Some changes already are taking place. New sophisticated-looking
condos and homes are being built in the area, a sign that a turnaround
is under way.
Neighborhood leaders hope that the renaissance will be put into
fast-forward when the public housing complex is demolished.