Savannah Morning News
September 22, 2007
The highly touted rebirth of the old Fellwood Homes public housing complex in West Savannah will get the funding mechanism needed to move forward with construction.
“I admit we are excited,” said Denis Blackburne, chief financial officer for Melaver Inc., the firm developing Fellwood into an environmentally friendly, mixed-income community. “We will get approximately $8 million in tax credits for phase I.”
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs on Friday announced the award of the tax credits for Fellwood and 29 other affordable projects across the state. Developers sell the tax credits to financial institutions or corporations to finance the development of affordable housing.
Fellwood would not have moved forward without the tax credits, Blackburne said.
“The tax credits are absolutely what is needed for this type of project,” he said.
City and neighborhood residents consider Fellwood the catalyst for redevelopment of the blighted West Savannah neighborhood.
Melaver plans to spend about $50 million on the project, which is being built for the Housing Authority of Savannah.
On the other side of Savannah in Bacon Park, a controversial low-income senior apartment complex did not get tax credits it needed to be built. Many city officials weren’t surprised after the Savannah City Council pulled support for it in the spring.
Fellwood homes opened in 1940 on West Bay Street as the first public housing complex operated by the Housing Authority of Savannah.
In 2003, the authority decided to shut down the approximately 300 units.
Phase I will have 100 units and five single-family homes that will be sold.
Future phases will add another 100 units, apartments for seniors, more single-family homes and commercial and retail space.
The city of Savannah has approved an enterprise zone that will give temporary property tax abatements to keep rents low and attract businesses.
Officials felt that the Fellwood proposal would get enough points to be awarded tax credits. The process is competitive, and only a certain amount of tax credits are awarded each year.
“I don’t think there was any fear, I don’t think so,” said Kenneth Dunham, president of the West Savannah Neighborhood. “Everything is positive, and we were counting on it.”
He is one of those who think a redeveloped Fellwood will turn around the run-down neighborhood. The city has designated the entire neighborhood as a redevelopment zone and aggressively moved to replace the housing stock, but has been hampered by a change in the eminent domain law.
“You see a lot of houses being built and lots of houses being repaired,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of people hanging on the corners like they used to.”
Blackburne said the new Fellwood will be about 40 percent public housing, 40 percent for people who make 60 percent of the average median income, and 20 percent rented at the market rate.
Market-rate rents are generally for those in the middle class and low-middle class, Blackburne said.
The average median income for a four-person family in the Savannah area is $57,600. Sixty percent of that is $34,560.
The poverty level for a family of four is $20,650, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The idea is to not create another “public-housing project,” Blackburne said.
“You don’t want to totally isolate different income classes,” he said.
The first phase could be completed by the middle of 2009.