After sitting idle for nearly 13 years, the sprawling Westside site that once housed the Bowen Homes public housing project could actually get a new lease on life.
At a specially called meeting Feb. 2, the Atlanta Housing (AH) board of commissioners could finally select a master developer for the revitalization of the 74-acre property, according to the agency’s CEO, Eugene Jones. AH’s aim is for the site to catalyze the rejuvenation of the surrounding distressed neighborhoods extending north of Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway.
“This is long overdue,” Jones told Atlanta Civic Circle.
The 2009 demolition of Bowen Homes, following a history pockmarked with violent crime, made Atlanta the first major U.S. city to get rid of all its large-scale public housing projects.
Today, according to the request for proposals AH issued on December 9, “the only witnesses to the troubled existence of Bowen Homes are the trees that once shaded courtyards, now surrounded by a meadow that has reclaimed the 74-acre site.”
The master developer that AH taps to lead the site’s rebirth — Jones said last week that it had culled the candidates to just five — will be charged with rebuilding the overgrown land into a mixed-income, mixed-use project that spurs Hollowell Parkway’s transformation into “Atlanta’s next Peachtree Street,” as SaportaReport’s David Pendered put it in a report on Tuesday.
The RFP called for a new commercial corridor for the site, which borders Hollowell Parkway to the north, along with mixed-income rental and homeownership residences — including affordable housing — and greenspace.
AH expects to finalize the terms of the redevelopment deal with the master developer by April 22. If everything goes smoothly, the first phase of the project could wrap in 2028.
AH commissioners on Wednesday approved a measure that tees the agency up to apply for a $50 million Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) — funds earmarked for revitalizing struggling neighborhoods.
The developer chosen to lead the project will have 15 months to close on construction financing from either the date of the master development agreement or HUD’s hoped-for approval of the grant — whichever comes first. Construction would launch soon after.
If HUD green-lights the grant, the funds will support the planning phase for Bowen Homes’ comeback, as well as community improvements in the surrounding neighborhoods of Monroe Heights, Carey Park, and Brookview Heights.
“But we do intend to move forward with the redevelopment of Bowen Homes, whether we receive the $50 million grant or not,” AH’s vice president of real estate development, Trish O’Connell, said during Wednesday’s meeting.
The news that Bowen Homes’ revamp is on the horizon comes on heels of AH’s announcement last week that it could pick a development team as soon as next month to spearhead the revival of the iconic Atlanta Civic Center.
The two redevelopment projects signal new momentum for AH, which for years had been ensnared in lawsuits and leadership turmoil.
The public can weigh in on the new vision for Bowen Homes during the Feb. 2 virtual board meeting by dialing in. Details will be posted on AH’s notices page for the public.