Housing developer hopes to transform blighted Albany neighborhood

A Georgia-based affordable housing developer approached City of Albany commissioners on Tuesday about redeveloping the Albany Homes neighborhood. / Mary Green

Albany resident Darryl Evans has only lived on Marie Road, between Clark Avenue and East Broad Avenue, for two years.

But he knows what's going on in his neighborhood.

"We need some help," he said. "There's people out here begging for some help."

Evans said the area where he lives can feel dangerous, and that needs to change.

"We want to feel safe wherever we lay our heads down," he said. "We want our families to live safe."

Evans lives in the same building as a unit that caught fire a few weeks ago. It's one of at least five arsons being investigated on Marie Road in the past 13 months.

"It's because of the vacant structures, homeless people going in there, living in there," Albany Fire Department Investigator Sam Harris said.

But that landscape could change in the future.

Clement & Company, a Georgia-based affordable housing developer, approached City of Albany commissioners on Tuesday about redeveloping the Albany Homes neighborhood where Evans lives.

"If we get it all worked out, it's going to be a great opportunity for the community," Clement & Company Principal Mitchell Davenport said.

Davenport said their plans are to tear down the existing buildings in the Albany Homes complex and construct 64 new units. They would also like to partner with local organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs and Albany Area Primary Health Care to bring a wellness center, community garden and other amenities to the neighborhood.

"Especially where you have city support and the support of the community, the redevelopment becomes kind of the epicenter and impetus for other investment in the area," Davenport said.

Commissioners gave the project, called Dogwood Trail Apartments, their formal support on Tuesday, but Davenport said the plans hinge on the approval of a tax credit application by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

"This is a very competitive process, so sometimes we don't always win the allocation of credits to finance the developments, but I think we've got a very strong shot here in Albany," Davenport said, adding that they've successfully build similar complexes in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

He said they should know by November if the application is approved. If it is, their goal would be to close on the property and break ground by next summer and then to finish construction and lease the units out by the end of 2020.

Davenport said relocation plans for current residents are based on each individual resident and their situation, but he said they would have the opportunity to move into the new complex.

That could be a glimmer of hope for Evans and his neighbors.

"This place out here, we would love to have something like that," Evans said.

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