A key development in the Laney-Walker/Bethlehem neighborhood revitalization project lost some traction when the city announced plans to redevelop two historic mills to support the growth of Georgia Regents University, a city leader said Thursday.
Housing and Community Development Director Chester Wheeler said the idea of restoring the former King and Sibley Mills for educational and student housing space was a “stumbling block” for the Foundry Place development along Wrightsboro Road and R.A. Dent Boulevard in Laney-Walker.
About 60 people met Thursday night at Beulah Grove Baptist Church for a community meeting updating neighborhood residents on the Laney-Walker/Bethlehem project – a $38.5 million city investment funded by a special 50-year hotel/motel tax.
One of six priority development areas meant to jumpstart revitalization, the Foundry Place is slated as a mixed-use residential and retail area for existing neighborhood residents but heavily targeting university professionals and students.
Housing leaders have had significant planning discussions with university leaders, conducted market research, talked to Waffle House about a location in the area and began working with CSX Corporation to improve the railroad crossing at R.A. Dent Boulevard, Wheeler said. That work will move along more slowly with the mills campus also in the works, he said.
“The mills site is closer to downtown and Broad Street. I think it did probably attract more interest living over there than at the corner (of R.A. Dent and Wrightsboro Road),” Wheeler said.
Atlanta-based Vantage Development was selected as the project developer for Foundry Place, which was named for an old foundry in the area that the city holds a purchase option on. Wheeler said Foundry Place is crucial to further development near Georgia Regents University’s medical campus.
“You can’t start development on Wrightsboro Road until we tackle the foundry,” he said.
The city has acquired properties on Wrightsboro Road from McCauley Street to Lee Beard Way where apartments could be built to support the revitalization efforts.