By Natalie Simms
Take a drive down South Broad Street into South Rome and its hard to miss the transformation. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the rise of a new Anna K. Davie Elementary School, a new South Rome Boys and Girls Club and the Etowah Terrace Senior Living apartments.
Continuing the revitalization efforts are the new South Rome Apartments, a development of 84 housing units at three different sites in the community: McCall Place, Etowah Bend and Burrell Square.
The South Rome Apartments are a joint venture between the South Rome Redevelopment Corporation and Laurel Street, a residential developer based in Charlotte, N.C. The City of Rome and Rome Community Development have been active partners throughout the planning and development process as well.
“The 84 new construction, affordable units at three strategic sites in South Rome are intended to provide affordable housing but also continue the revitalization of a neighborhood with easy proximity to Rome’s growing and bustling downtown,” says Lee Cochran with Laurel Street.
“The $14 million investment in the apartments is a continuation of investment by the City of Rome and South Rome Redevelopment Corporation focused on housing, education and wellness.”
The first phase began on McCall Place in July 2016. The apartments are at the corner of South Broad and West Forest, the former site of the old McCall Hospital. This property features 27 apartments in two buildings that include one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Amenities include a computer room, craft room and laundry room, plus access to amenities at the other two sites.
Etowah Bend came next and was completed in September 2017. The development includes one building at the corner of South Broad and Etowah Terrace, and a second building on Etowah Terrace overlooking the Etowah River. It has 23 one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Amenities include computer room, laundry room and playground.
Construction on the final site, Burrell Square, was just finished in December with the first occupants moving in last month. It is at the site of the former Anna K. Davie School at the intersection of Cherokee Street and Hardy Avenue. This property includes 17 duplexes with a total of 34 two- and three-bedroom units, along with a community building featuring a fitness room, computer center, laundry room and playground.
Interest in the housing developments has taken SRRC Executive Director Charles Looney by surprise.
“After McCall Place was completed, we posted some photos on Facebook and I was just really surprised at the reaction. It just blew up…we had like 36,000 views and thousands of shares on Facebook. The apartments have been really great and a benefit to the neighborhood,” he says.
Gateway Management Co. handles the leasing of the properties. Gateway’s Property Manager Tonya Peterson says she stays busy fielding all the interest.
“Right now, McCall Place and Etowah Bend are all completely leased. We still have some available units at Burrell Square…just a few two-bedroom units and about 13 three-bedroom units,” she says. “There has been a ton of interest but finding the right, qualified families is the challenge.”
There are some income requirements/restrictions for those interested in leasing. An applicant’s income must fall between 50 percent to 60 percent of the area median income. Looney says that means they generally serve families earning between $10,000 and $31,000 a year. The monthly rent ranges between $354 to $635 a month depending on size of unit and household income. The rent does include monthly water, trash and sewer fees.
“Anyone interested in the apartments can stop by the leasing office located at Burrell Square and take a tour and see if they prequalify. There are some documents required for application, as well as income restrictions, so we can walk them through the process,” says Peterson.
In addition to the apartments, the SRRC and Community Development also have some new single-family homes located on Wilson Avenue available for purchase. Funded through grants from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, they are available for families at 80% of the area median income who also qualify for a traditional home loan.
Bekki Fox, director of Rome Community Development, says the new apartments and houses have had a “very positive” effect on Rome.
“There are now affordable, quality housing for residents to choose from that didn’t exist before and it’s motivating other property owners and landlords to upgrade their properties,” she says. “The units are constructed either on vacant lots or replace blighted buildings which are also good things for any neighborhood.”
As for the future, Looney and Fox say they will continue to do what they’ve been doing in working to add more housing, expand education opportunities and improve the economy of South Rome.
“The city will continue to partner with SRRC in new single-family housing development, code enforcement and encouraging economic development endeavors. I am personally very proud of the progress that has been made in South Rome and I feel that the changes are very visible and most definitely enhance the area,” says Fox.
Adds Looney, “We are going to try and take the downtown development momentum and go across the bridge and down the corridor to get folks to invest in South Broad. There is lots of potential for growth for business. There are several spots that could be renovated for stores, restaurants and work spaces.
“We will soon begin talks to put together formal incentives to encourage growth in the area. We have a committee devoted to economic development and will be working to improve the economy of South Rome in general.”