Politics & Government

New plans emerge to replace Tindall Heights

Tindall Heights, a 75-year-old public housing complex in Macon, may at last be razed and replaced.

The Macon-Bibb County Housing Authority is asking the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, which owns the 28-acre site, for permission to tear down Tindall Heights’ 412 units.

“This is just the first of many steps,” said June Parker, housing authority executive director.

The application to HUD hasn’t been submitted yet but will be soon, she said. All plans are contingent on federal permission.

“If HUD turns us down, then we’re dead in our tracks,” Parker said. But the housing authority wouldn’t put the effort into asking if it didn’t have a good chance of getting approval, she said.

Parker thanked Reichert and Macon-Bibb County commissioners for their letter to HUD in support of the project.

The administration has signed off on the request for an environmental review of the site, Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore said.

The housing authority hopes to replace Tindall Heights with a four-phase redevelopment over the next five or six years, Parker said.

“We are looking at probably over $40 million by the time you do all the phases,” she said.

The replacement plan includes building 270 larger apartments on the current site, with the first phase consisting of senior citizen housing north of Alabama Street, Parker said.

The last phase would involve building a “neighborhood commercial center” on 8.5 acres, according to a public notice announcing the plan.

The commercial site is adjacent to Little Richard Penniman Boulevard. Parker said there are no detailed plans for the commercial use, but that area is part of the Second Street Corridor: Mayor Robert Reichert’s project to link Second Street with Penniman. A groundbreaking for the curving connector road was held April 3. The work is expected to take 18 months, and Reichert wants the stretch to eventually become a landscaped, pedestrian-friendly corridor lined with businesses.

Tindall Heights, built in 1940, is the oldest complex the housing authority runs. The agency has sought to redevelop it for years, Parker said.

“Tindall Heights is the most troubled property in the Macon-Bibb County Housing Authority inventory,” the public notice says.

It last saw major renovation in 1985, according to the housing authority’s website. Its apartments, with one-bedrooms starting at 400 square feet, now don’t even meet state standards for housing size, Parker said. The buildings have no central heat or air conditioning, and no way to install them, she said.

In 2010 and 2011, the housing authority sought but failed to get a $22 million federal HOPE VI grant to help redevelop the complex. That plan would have included five phases and cost about $50 million altogether, so the current concept is a scaled-back version, Parker said.

The housing authority plans to manage the $40 million cost, spread over several years, with a combination of federal capital-improvement funding, tax credits and partnerships, she said.

Tindall Heights’ 412 units remain about 95 percent occupied, Parker said. If demolition is approved, those tenants would have to relocate.

The housing authority would help residents find other housing with a Section 8 “tenant protection voucher,” so they shouldn’t wind up paying more than their current subsidized rents, and the agency would cover relocation costs, Parker said.

“We have met with our residents several times. They are excited at the process of getting new housing,” she said.

Once the new complex is finished, former Tindall Heights residents who remain eligible could join the applicant pool to move back in, Parker said. But the replacement complex would have just 270 units.

Some of the difference can be made up by the planned renovation of the former Hunt Elementary School at 990 Shurling Drive. In November, the housing authority announced it will get $657,286 in state tax credits, which can be sold to raise money for construction, to turn the school site into apartments for the elderly. The $8 million project will renovate the former school and add two buildings on the 10-acre site to create 60 units of affordable housing for senior citizens.

Information from Georgia Public Broadcasting reporter Grant Blankenship and Telegraph archives was used for this report. To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.