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Macon, River Edge announce plans for latest housing development

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert and other officials took turns Wednesday using a sledgehammer to take shots at a dilapidated east Macon apartment building.

The apartments will be demolished next month to make room for 10 new one- and two-bedroom duplex units to help River Edge Behavioral Health Center clients find permanent housing as part of their recovery, such as from mental health or substance abuse issues.

The new units, scheduled for completion in June 2013, are the third wave of new housing built by River Edge through grant money obtained from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The current grant, awarded to the city, is $1.5 million.

The new units will be located on Society Street, between Woolfolk Street and Emery Highway. When they are complete, the new houses will join the previous two projects on Bowman Street that have helped to revitalize the entire block.

“It serves two purposes,” Reichert said. “This will allow us to continue to build this area up and eliminate blight.”

Shannon Harvey, the CEO of River Edge, said finding permanent housing for its clients is a top priority.

“I’m excited about this day,” she said. “This is another step in the program.”

Roxanne McIver, director of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program for HUD’s Atlanta regional office, noted that construction is being handled by a local company, Stafford Builders & Consultants, meaning that the money provided for the project will stay in the community. The project also will be built with “green” technology.

“You can’t stabilize a community with buildings that look like this,” McIver said Wednesday. “It does make a difference when we see who is being served. (Residents) should be so proud, so happy to say, ‘This is what my city did for me.’”

Sarah Smith, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1964, said the previous River Edge housing has greatly enhanced that section of the Fort Hill neighborhood.

“I love it,” she said. “Everybody who comes and visits me tells me how nice it all looks. ... I have some nice neighbors. I speak with them a lot.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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