Macon Homes was an all-but-abandoned neighborhood where crimes seemed to sprout as fast as the weeds.
Now, the all-new Bartlett Crossing neighborhood is taking its place, with 14 homes rising faster than officials could schedule a ceremony, which took place Monday.
“Some groundbreaking, huh?” noted John Hiscox, executive director of the Macon Housing Authority, gesturing to the homes under construction. “You turn your back on it for five minutes and you get 1-2-3-4-5-6” homes in a row built.
By perhaps June or July, the entire 75-home neighborhood is expected to be complete along Ernest Street, replacing a derelict neighborhood between Montpelier and Napier avenues.
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The old concrete apartment buildings have been ground up to help make new roads for the development.
Project developer Bruce Gerwig of the housing authority said about a half-dozen levels of financing are expected to back the project, which will cost about $15.5 million including demolition and infrastructure. The homes will be rented for at least 20 years through a public-private partnership with private management.
Macon Mayor Robert Reichert said officials hoped to hold a ceremony before the first house wall was up, but weather delayed things a few weeks. By Monday, most of the 14 houses under construction had exterior walls and windows up, and five of them had extensive siding.
Reichert said that was a welcome change from what Councilman Lonnie Miley described as “14 acres of nothing but blight.” The Bartlett Crossing homes are planned to be energy efficient, rebuild an area of Macon and keep people living in the city.
The new homes will have two, three or four bedrooms. A three-bedroom, one-bath home under construction Monday featured a pass-through from the kitchen to a dining room.
The home had 9-foot ceilings. Each home will be at least partially handicapped accessible.
The project is being built with private bank and investment money that will benefit from tax credits, while about $4 million in federal neighborhood stabilization money also backed the project and helped demolish Macon Homes and its roads, Gerwig said.
Officials said many of the contractors and subcontractors on the project are local and are using local laborers. During a news conference Monday, workers continued to saw lumber and put roofing on the houses.
Hiscox said the demolition alone has already cut down on crime in the area. The Macon Homes buildings hosted prostitutes and drugs, among other problems.
The new development includes a playground and community building.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.