A historic Macon high-rise will have a local owner for the first time in 36 years.
The Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority agreed Thursday to buy the 113,000-square-foot Dempsey Apartments building, which sits at 523 Cherry St. on the corner with Third Street. Boston, Massachusetts-based The Barkan Companies has owned the property as Dempsey-Macon Associates since 1982, when it bought the building from the authority.
The Dempsey has been offering subsidized housing for the elderly and disabled in the heart of downtown for years.
The authority agreed to pay $4.5 million in addition to assuming the outstanding current debt, estimated at $5.6 million, according to the purchase and sale agreement The Telegraph obtained after a closed portion of the authority's meeting Thursday.
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The authority also agreed by resolution to obtain bond financing for not more than $15 million, and the proceeds would be used "to acquire, maintain, enlarge, improve and/or equip" the facility and to cover other expenses. The authority also approved a management agreement with the Macon Housing Authority for the residential portion of the building.
According to the Macon-Bibb County Tax Assessors website, the tax value of the nine-story apartments and parking garage in 2017 was $7.4 million. The 11-story parking garage was added in late 1950.
The 194-unit apartment building is 100 percent occupied, and no changes to its residents are expected, said Chris Sheridan, chairman of the authority.
"We are not going to move out all the residents and move in a whole bunch of new ones," Sheridan said. "We think with local control it will give us an opportunity to react to situations and we can improve the lives of the residents there."
The apartment building remains under "use restrictions" for affordable housing until 2035 under a contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and all owners of the building are bound by the same agreement.
Much of the first floor, which offers commercial and retail space, is vacant. But the authority doesn't yet have any plans for filling those spaces.
"To be candid, we don't want to get ahead of ourselves," authority Executive Director Alex Morrison said. "We don't want anyone to think there is a grand plan beyond just getting it bought."
The building was constructed in 1913, according to the tax assessors' website. It was built as a hotel, and it has had several owners, undergone several renovations and has been known as Hotel Dempsey and Dempsey Motor Hotel, according to Telegraph archives. It changed ownership eight times in six years in the 1970s.
Over the years, the hotel has been in the news for everything from reports of stolen jewelry and fires to the elevator crashing.
In 1975, Richard "Dickie" Betts, the lead guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, faced a charge of simple battery after a fight in the Red Lamp Lounge at the hotel, according to a Telegraph article.