About 75 percent of tenants have moved out of the public housing complex on 15th Street since the Augusta Housing Authority began vacating Cherry Tree Crossing last fall. On Thursday, the authority’s governing board approved the next step towards demolishing the 75-year-old development, one of the nation’s first government housing projects under the Housing Act of 1937.
The board approved a $91,100 contract with Alternative Construction and Environmental Services who will design a demolition plan for 57 apartment buildings and four other structures. The work includes surveying asbestos and lead paint locations.
Alternative Construction and Environmental Services – the only company to respond to two bid requests – will not perform the demolition. A demolition company will be contracted for the work.
“We tried to get more bids but we were only able to get this one,” said Augusta Housing Authority Executive Director Jake Oglesby.
The selected company also performed demolition design services for Gilbert Manor and Underwood Homes, two former housing projects that were torn down.
When Cherry Tree Crossing’s demolition was approved in August, 355 families resided at the complex. Ninety-two remained Wednesday afternoon, and 20 more were expected to move this week.
“This process moves fast at first then it slows down again,” said Buddy Oldfield, director of resident services. “It might speed up again towards the end.”
Of those residents who have moved, 170 accepted Section 8 vouchers for private housing, 41 moved to other public housing and 52 moved out on their own, were evicted for not paying rent or died, Oldfield said.
An additional 49 have been approved for vouchers and 26 for public housing. The remaining 17 families are trying to qualify for a voucher, waiting on public housing vacancies or facing eviction.
Oldfield said families have moved to almost every other public housing project the authority operates. Families using Section 8 vouchers are not concentrated in one particular area of Augusta, he said.
Cherry Tree Crossing looks like a “ghost town,” Oldfield said. Richmond County Sheriff’s deputies are still patrolling the area, and some people have been found living inside vacant units, Oldfield said.
Walton Communities, a developer based in Marietta, Ga., was selected in October to build a modern, mixed-income apartment complex on the Cherry Tree Crossing site. The developer also built Walton Oaks and the Legacy at Walton Oaks on the former Underwood Homes site on Sand Bar Ferry Road for the housing authority.