Development activity for the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods will continue in the coming year after city leaders declared the first full year of construction activity a success.
Chester Wheeler, the director of the city’s Housing and Community Development Department, reviewed the project at an annual meeting for revitalization efforts in the area that began in 2008. About 75 people attended the Tuesday night meeting.
“By and large, almost everyone in the community today has risen to the challenge to create a community that knows no bounds,” he said. “Many of our meetings since then have been about all the details dealing with all the challenges we have on a daily basis and managing those complex problems. Tonight is really about seeing the forest for all the tress and celebrating just how far we’ve come in just 12 months.”
More than $2 million has been spent to acquire property, and another $585,000 was spent on infrastructure improvements in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem blocks, Wheeler said. New homes have added $4.3 million to the tax roll since September 2010, he said.
This year, developers plan to continue building homes and duplexes in Heritage Pine, the flagship development for the revitalization efforts. Further planning will continue for Foundry Place, the first major mixed-use development site featuring 20,000 square feet of commercial space, 90 one-bedroom apartments, 12 townhouses and 25 single-family homes near R.A. Dent Boulevard and Wrightsboro Road.
Mayor Deke Copenhaver and City Administrator Fred Russell, members of the project’s original steering committee, also spoke at the meeting praising the apparent progress. Copenhaver said the project has received numerous awards that brought the city into the national spotlight.
“I’ve said on more than one occasion that this poor neighborhood has too many holes in its roofs and rats in its basements for any of us to sleep. It’s our job, it’s our calling, it’s our responsibility to make sure those houses are fixed,” Russell said.