More than two years after the October 2009 ground-breaking for Heritage Pine’s model home, just five houses and half of a duplex are occupied. Construction continues, however, on more houses on Pine and 11th streets to expand the flagship development of the massive Laney-Walker revitalization efforts.
Augusta’s Housing and Community Development Department said it originally planned to sell houses before building them. When demand appeared to outpace supply, they started building without buyers lined up.
“We want to make sure we have a product for anyone who walks in the door,” said Hawthorne Welcher, the assistant housing director.
Now, five more houses are under construction, bringing the total of new homes in Heritage Pine to 18. According to Welcher, three Pine Street homes are under contract and three Florence Street duplexes need renters. The model home, 1116 Laney-Walker Blvd, also sits empty.
The fifth Heritage Pine homeowner, Chawnette Boyd, moved in Dec. 23, just in time to celebrate Christmas with her 4-year-old daughter. A first-time homeowner who lived in rental properties for years, Boyd called her green two-story house her “dream home.”
“I wanted to be in the city but on the good side of the city,” she said.
According to advertisements, Heritage Pine should eventually encompass at least 44 homes, including new houses and historic renovations marketed as costing between $110,000 and $210,000.
The city is trying to offset selling costs and attract buyers by offering interest-free loans to assist with closing costs and down payments. Also, the Florence Street duplexes, two of which have been sold to community development partner Antioch Ministries Inc., are available for low-income tenants with a household income 50 percent or below the area’s median income.
A map for Heritage Pine available on its Web site shows future homes and renovations interspersed with existing homes on 11th Street from Laney-Walker Boulevard to Wrightsboro Road. According to county property records, the Augusta Land Bank Authority has purchased at least 40 properties in the vicinity, including 20 on Pine Street.
In 2009, the Land Bank bought 1207 Pine St. for $22,000 when the market value was $5,544. The first resident of Pine Street moved into a new 1,400-square-foot house that sold for $117,900 on that site last March. Two other Pine Street houses sold for $120,500 and $148,732.
Welcher said that a timeline for completing the project hasn’t been set but that they will build to keep up with the market. While construction continues, Boyd – whose aspirations include becoming homeowner association president – sees a crime-free city block where neighbors call one another by name.
“I love to come home,” she said. “The outside is beautiful. The inside is immaculate.”