Cutting the ribbon on The Oaks at Park Pointe, is just the beginning, said Griffin Housing Authority Executive Director Bob Dull.
“The goal is to bring dignity, respect and confidence in a community,” Dull said, at Monday’s ribbon cutting for the public/private project that replaced Meriwether Homes, a 120-unit public housing complex built in 1952.
Dull said Meriwether Homes served the community for 60 years, housing approximately 3,400 families.
“It was built as segregated housing,” he said, noting “the transformation to something diverse, with 86 family units in the first phase. Phase II is the senior building, to meet the greatest need we will have in the future, folks with limited income.”
Dull said The Oaks at Park Place, is part of a rebranding effort for the entire neighborhood, noting two blocks away is City Park and the City Golf Course, “instead of Sunshine homes,” which is what the residents called it as that was name of one of streets in the former Meriwether Homes.
A planned third phase will go across the street, up Pimento Avenue to City Park, in the Spring Hill area with new homes marketed to retirees looking for golf and tennis amenities the park provides, said Griffin Mayor Doug Hollberg.
“Is it not a great Griffin day?” Hollberg asked, noting the changes along Meriwether Street, which he noted was targeted using SPLOST funds. “The goal is to make Griffin a safe, wholesome community,” he said, noting the difficulty in that when the city spends $9 million for law enforcement, but only brings in $4 million in property taxes.
To do that, Hollberg said, “we need to take the old out and replace it,” adding that this is part of that effort “to make Griffin the best it can be.”
Many of the speakers talked about the partnerships that made this project happen
Lt. Josh Hinson of the Salvation Army said “a lot people partner/work together to benefit the community, the people who live next door. We are grateful to be included.”
Georgia Third District Congressman Lynn Westmoreland said this project is “an example of what government can do when it partners with somebody who knows what they are doing.” The project he said, “is something people can be proud to tell them where they live.”
He praised the work from state and federal agencies for help with funding.
“You’d be surprised who is in support of this type of effort and who’s opposed to it,” Westmoreland said. “This is the only way to change the stigma of public housing.”
Other partners included the City of Griffin, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Federal Home Loan Bank, RBC Capital Markets, United Bank, developer Penrose Properties and their contractors.
he speakers praised the work of the Griffin Housing Authority board, with Dull saying “it’s been a long journey, we’ve been down this road for seven years now. I want to thank my board for their guidance. They told me ‘enough talking, get it done,’” and he named the members of the board including Eula Redding, a 30-year resident of Meriwether Homes.
Redding said “it was a great day for Griffin and Spalding County. I am excited. I moved into public housing in 1982. From that day on, I have wanted something better. I was down for moment but I needed to rise up.”
She said, “when we hired Mr. Dull, we wanted it for years, to do better and give them something to be proud of. I told him the dream; we were dreaming of this. The only thing wrong with public housing is not trying to do better. Like Mr. Dull says, when something looks good, it makes the residents feel good.”
The 84 housing units, 14 buildings, 48 two-bedroom and 36 three bedroom, were built as Earth Craft efficient, with energy efficient appliances including washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator and stoves. It includes a 2,300 square foot community and leasing center with a community meeting room (with kitchen) and a computer room.
Dull said only half of the units will be subsidized housing, as it is a mixed-income development. Construction on the first phase is scheduled for completion in December with all units expected to be occupied by January. “We have a long waiting list,” he said.
Redding said, “all I hear is “why are you building that for poor people?’ It’s for all of God’s people. Today God is smiling down on us. Look at what we’re doing. Watch out for the Griffin Housing Authority. We’re on a roll. This is just the first step.”
Dull said “that is what The Oaks at Park Pointe is about. You can’t build those status quo, generation-trapping projects. The key thing, there must be progressive housing. Help those in need, then help those move to the next level and eventually to home ownership. Our partnership with the City of Griffin and the NSP (neighborhood stabilization program), we will soon start selling houses.”