What is the North Downtown Athens Redevelopment Master Plan
The North Downtown Athens Redevelopment Master Plan (the “Master Plan”) is a subset of the larger North Downtown Athens Master Planning Study (the “Study”). The Study encompasses a large area inclusive of public and privately-owned lands north of Downtown Athens. The Study sets a vision for the area’s long-term development. The Redevelopment Master Plan sets a vision for the housing planned to be developed on those parcels that currently comprise the Bethel Midtown Village (“Bethel”) and College and Hoyt public housing sites. The Study was the result of hours of conversations, meetings, and planning sessions held in person in Athens and virtually during a unique master planning process. The Study belongs to the residents of the North Downtown Athens community, especially the residents of Bethel Midtown Village and the College & Hoyt communities, and the engaged citizens of Athens who offered their time, wisdom, insights, and energy to the process that lasted more than a year. The Study was adopted in March 2021 by the Athens-Clarke County (“ACC”) Mayor and Commission and is currently in its implementation phase.
What does the Master Plan mean for ACC
- Redevelops the Bethel Midtown Village and College & Hoyt publicly assisted units one-for-one, and proportionately distributes the preserved units in a mixed-income community that expands the overall number of affordable housing options.
- Increases the number of apartment homes from 222 to 715-875 in downtown Athens, which offers a high level of convenience to services and other amenities.
- Envisions a more walkable College Avenue so that residents and guests to the city feel comfortable crossing the street to Lyndon House and Lay Park and connecting back to Downtown Athens.
- Creates an innovative Wetland Park that integrates and improves stormwater management for both the Master Plan area and Pulaski Creek and that is available to the public.
- Creates a variety of neighborhood green spaces, both for adults and for children of various ages – including better connections to Lay Park, improvement of the existing local trail network, and improved mobility plans that connect the amenities and greenspaces.Contemplates an expanded Athens Neighborhood Health Center within the Master Plan footprint.
- Reestablishes an historic urban street grid through the Bethel Midtown Village site.
- Activates College Ave., Lumpkin, and Dougherty St. by encouraging active ground-floor uses.
- Reconfigures the Hull St. and Hoyt St. intersection at the Athens Community Council on Aging.
- Incorporates solar-ready and electric vehicle-ready design.
What housing is protected in this Master Plan?
The Master Plan proposes the phased demolition and replacement of all existing publicly assisted apartments. The redevelopment of the Bethel site is anticipated to be completed in four phases. The redevelopment of the Hoyt & College site is separate and distinct from these initial four phases. At the commencement of the implementation phase, some Bethel Midtown Village buildings remained occupied while others were demolished. When the newly constructed buildings are available, residents of Bethel will be relocated into the units set aside in the new buildings as replacement units. This part of the process is not necessarily one-for-one, for example, of the 190 existing units, 6 buildings with 77 apartments were demolished as part of Phase I but only 40 new replacement units will be built in Phase I. The remaining replacement units demolished in Phase I will be included in later phases.
Where can I locate the full North Downtown Athens Redevelopment Master Plan and access other valuable information and updates on the effort
The Master Plan can be viewed in its entirety on the Looking Back page.
How are the residents of the existing publicly assisted units being protected
After Athens Housing Authority (AHA) purchased Bethel and during the initial (Phase 1) relocation period, the rents of the existing Bethel households continued to be subsidized by a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 Project-Based Voucher Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract. The residents that were in place at the time of the purchase were required to execute a new lease because of the change in ownership and AHA engaged Columbia Residential Property Management (CRPM) to manage the lease agreements. CRPM took advantage of housing choices under their control that were located both onsite and offsite to fully accommodate the moves. HUD and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs reviewed and approved all relocation plans, which met the standards in the federal Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act (URA). All relocation costs including moving supplies, movers, and utility connection fees were paid for by the development. All households are being tracked and all have the right to return to the newly constructed units at rents corresponding to their certified income.
Will the publicly assisted units be distinguishable from the units that are not publicly assisted?
The publicly assisted replacement units will be interspersed in the building and will be built with the same finishes as the units that are not publicly-assisted. The management experience is also exactly the same for all customers.
What are the next steps?
The next step in the redevelopment process is the completion of the stormwater park at Hull and Hoyt Street, completion of the first phase of housing, and planning for the second phase of housing. Phase II will include a multi-family apartment building (approximately 150 units), wrapping a garage, and will be located at the intersection of Strong and Hull Street (Block B). The total number of units anticipated to be built in this phase is preliminary, subject to a lot of design work, and subject to a successful application for very competitive Low Income Housing Tax Credits (“LIHTC”). The team will start making applications for financing in October 2023.
How can I stay informed?
Updates can be accessed in the news section below.
The North Downtown Athens Redevelopment is a public-private partnership between Athens Housing Authority, Athens Clarke County Unified Government, and developers specializing in affordable and mixed-income housing. The project is supported by a team of design, technical assistance, and master planning consultants.