THA secures more funding for Orange Avenue Apartments redevelopment

Brenda Williams, executive director of Tallahassee Housing Authority, shows the area where a walking trail will be located.
Photo by Michael Cork
Brenda Williams, executive director of Tallahassee Housing Authority, stands near construction of Orange Avenue Apartments redevelopment.
Photo by Michael Cork

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

By the time that City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox stood to address the crowd, Brenda Williams had already announced that funding was secured to cover the cost of Phase II of the Orange Avenue Apartments redevelopment.

That news and the sound of construction workers going feverishly on Phase I seemingly was music to Williams-Cox’s ear. At least she sung as if it were.

A few words from Sam Cooke’s “A Change is gonna come” were what she started with. 

The folks who gathered under the huge white tent at a spot that once was an entrance into the apartment complex seemed to like it.

Williams-Cox had more.

“You all hear the hammering going on?” she asked. “You see the big truck coming by? You see the building? Can’t you see it? 

“The vision is being unfolded.”

Williams, Executive Director of Tallahassee Housing Authority, had a lot to say about the work that’s been going on at 2710 Country Club Drive for little more than three months. However, what she had to say about the next phase of the redevelopment was reassuring that work will go on.

Williams announced that $44.95 million was secured to fund construction of 160 unites that make up phase II of the redevelopment. That deal was closed on Jan. 31, Williams said.

Former state senator Loranne Ausley, who chairs the South City Foundation, also announced that through the efforts of former Congressman Al Lawson $2 million was secured for a childcare center in the neighborhood. The money will be used to help convert the former Wesson School into a state-of-the-art childcare center. 

That will take a few years to come to fruition, Ausley said. 

The redevelopment of Orange Avenue Apartments will be finished much sooner. Both phases are expected to be completed by the fall of 2024. In all the first two phases will cost $88 million for a total of 290 units. 

“Years ago, I never imagined I would be standing here today watching a vision come true,” Williams said. “The vision has materialized over a period of about five to 10 years.”

The next phase, across the street from where the announcement was made, will be housing for seniors. When completed, the redevelopment would have encompassed 29 acres, which includes property THA purchased in addition to the land where the old housing was located.

What will follow completion of the redevelopment will boost the Southside economy, Williams said.

“This is the beginning of a transformation; a transformation that’s going to occur over the years to come,” she said. “This community will be see so much economic development that will stem from this project years to come.”

Former residents will have priority to rent when the project is completed, Williams said, adding that those who return will live in a gated community. They will also see changes like an exercise room, a community room, walking trail, swimming pool, business center, computer room and laundry room, and an area for outdoor grilling.

The first sign of the walking trail was obvious when Williams said a trench that lines most of the area where new construction was happening will become a holding pond. It will have landscaping as part of the walking trail, Williams said.

“We are hoping that starting here on this site that we will be able to provide much-needed affordable housing,” Williams said. “Those families have been waiting for years.”

When completed, Orange Avenue Apartments will become part of the Purpose Built network. The South City Foundation pushed for that following a exploration visit to East Lake neighborhood, the first Purpose Built community in Atlanta.

That trip gave the Foundation an inside look at ways to improve quality of life for children on the Southside. The childcare center is one of them, Ausley said.

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