West Highlands
Unveiling Of West Highlands At Perry Boulevard
The Atlanta Inquirer
West Highlands is Atlanta's newest in-town residential development that is expected to have 1,000 new single family homes, 460 acres of rolling green hills and old growth trees, 90 acres of parks and green space, an 18-hole public golf course, 780 new rental apartments, $428 million new urbanism development, and 134 new apartment senior community. This community is being developed where the old Perry Homes public housing development once stood. Phase one development is 100% occupied. The neighborhood is a pedestrian-friendly, live-work-play community that will soon be one of the most desirable places to live in Atlanta. YMCA and Butler Street YMCA are planning a new state-of-the-art development in the community.
In 1994, Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) applied for and received a HUD HOPE VI grant of $25.1 million. To make the sprawling residential development a reality, Atlanta Housing Authority successfully leveraged the federal grant into a $428 million public-private venture. Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) partnered with Perry Homes Redevelopment, a joint partnership of Columbia Residential, Brock Built, and Perry Golf Course Development. The principals are Noel Khalil, partner of Columbia Residential, developer for multi-family units; Steve Brock, president of Brock Built Homes, developer for single family units; and Chip Drury, president of Perry Golf Development, developer for the public golf course. Washington Mutual is a lender / partner assisting to increase homeownership opportunities for affordable housing.
On June 14, Renee Glover, the Atlanta Housing Authority and its partners hosted the unveiling of West Highlands at Perry Boulevard. Among the dignitaries on hand to unveil the new community were U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Alphonso Jackson, Atlanta Mayor Shirley C. Franklin, Fulton County Commissioner Chair Karen Handel, Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell, and Atlanta City Councilwoman Felicia A. Moore.
U. S. Secretary Jackson stated that in a past report on housing developments in the United States, "Perry Homes represented the very worst." He is elated to say that the new "West Highlands represents the very best in pubic housing." Jackson continue, "No longer will these be projects, but a community." "Poverty is a condition, poor is a state of mind; and we're eradicating these terms."
As Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell steps up recalling the words from the Negro National Anthem "Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod...," she verifies "as long as one is poorly housed, all are poorly housed." Darnell added, "this is a district that believes in homeownership."
Blighted housing project could become site of 462-acre community with golf course

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By David Pendered
The Atlanta Housing Authority plans to raise a massive live-play community on the former site of a crime-infested public housing complex in southwest Atlanta.

An 18-hole golf course to be built atop a closed landfill is a cornerstone of the project. AHA and its private sector partners also plan to build a charter school, library, YMCA and 2,211 housing units in a 462-acre community centered around the old Perry Homes.

If all works as planned, the $300 million to $400 million project would stand as a stunning recovery of a part of town so blighted that even former Perry Homes residents tried to flee.

The depth of those problems came to light in 1989, when a mother of six fought AHA to move from an apartment where she had been threatened with a submachine gun, burglarized and had a shot fired into her house -- before a man in a ski mask broke in and stole her television.

"We really are talking about removing a residential brownfield," said AHA Executive Director Renee Glover, "and turning that area into a wonderfully elaborate part of town."
The rolling site is now vacant. The last vestiges of Perry Homes were demolished last summer, adding little value to the tax base of Atlanta and Fulton County. Part of the project`s attraction is its potential to bring new tax dollars into the public coffers, Glover said.
If Atlanta will turn over to AHA a few hundred acres it owns surrounding the former Perry Homes and improve the area`s public infrastructure, the potential return in property taxes would be overwhelming, Glover said.

"The leverage potential is tremendous," Glover said. "The city`s investment, in terms of $22 million for public improvements and the land it invests, would be an outstanding leverage. These are exactly the types of programs and strategies that cities, localities and the federal government should be undertaking."

However, the cash-strapped city already is struggling to fund its part of the retooling of the 105-acre Carver Homes rehabilitation project on Pryor Road in south Atlanta.

The city this year approved just $4.6 million of the $10 million needed to build streets, water mains and sewer lines.

Most ambitious plan|
When Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin worked with the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, she was involved in two AHA-backed restorations of blighted communities, Centennial Place and East Lake. Franklin indicated support for the Perry Homes redevelopment but stopped short of promising to put city-owned land or cash into the project.

"The mayor clearly understands that it will take an unusual match of partners to create the sense of community they`re trying to achieve in the Perry Homes area," said Sandra Walker, Franklin`s spokeswoman. "We`re still in the early days of the administration and look forward to talking with the planning staff and other parties in order to achieve the development of the project."

Atlanta Planning Commissioner Michael Dobbins said city planners have been reviewing the Perry Homes area for years as part of a master plan for northwest Atlanta, with the process gaining intensity three years ago as infill development escalated.

The West Highlands project, which is the new name of the old Perry Homes, is AHA`s most ambitious attempt yet to retool blighted public housing projects into successful neighborhoods.

It would follow in the footsteps of Centennial Place, Carver Homes, and the villages of East Lake, a golf course community in east Atlanta that revitalized a place where shootings happened so often that locals called it Little Vietnam.

In its most recent project, the AHA expects to start this fall to raze Capitol Homes, located near the state Capitol, and replace it with a $144.7 million mixed-use development called Capitol Gateway. It would include1,033 mixed-income apartments and townhomes and 45,000 square feet of offices, shops and restaurants.

Glover has established a national reputation as a visionary in the public housing arena. Federal officials have frequently toured the projects she has helped turn from isolated pockets of poverty into mixed-income communities.

Andrew Cuomo, then the federal housing secretary, visited Atlanta in 2000 to tour Centennial Place, the mixed-income rental community near Georgia Tech`s campus that replaced Techwood Homes. Cuomo said Centennial Place was an excellent example of a housing complex that would help the poor get on their feet by living near the role models of working families, whose very presence bolsters public safety and the educational opportunities of children of impoverished families.

"When you look at the wonderfully rich textured fabric of the community we`re talking about at West Highlands, the transformation we`re talking about, you see that it is comprehensive and speaks to all the issues of the day," Glover said.

The housing formula calls for 40 percent of the units to be earmarked for families in the public housing program. Twenty percent will be reserved for families earning half the metro average income, and the rest will be at market rate.
`Real proud, ... scared’

Construction is to start in July on 124 multifamily units, according to Noel Khalil, whose company, Columbia Residential, won an AHA bid to develop the apartments and townhouses. Khalil has developed affordable housing in Atlanta`s suburbs and won accolades for a project in Houston.

"One thing we`re still blown away by internally is the idea of developing more than 2,000 homes in the city of Atlanta, a place where 5,000 individuals will live," Khalil said. "This is the biggest thing I`ve ever worked on in my life. I`m real proud, real excited and real scared."

AHA`s other private sector partners in the project are Steve Brock, who completed the successful Adams Crossing subdivision near West Highlands, and Chip Drury, who is to build a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus.

Khalil says West Highlands will be a safe and pleasant place to call home.

The case he makes got a boost last week from the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled without dissent that government agencies can use aggressive eviction policies to rout drug users from public housing.

"The premise I work from is there are general community standards [of behavior]," Khalil said.

"One of them is respect thy neighbor. Don`t take things that don`t belong to you. Live peaceably in your community and be concerned about the quality of life in your community by helping to strengthen your community.

"If you do not do these things, you won`t live in West Highlands," he said.