Carmen Chubb, assistant commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, told a huge crowd of residents and community leaders that DCA will spread the word of the Etowah Terrace project far and wide across Georgia.
“Because of your vision for this community, because of your leadership in the face of adversity, because of your commitment to providing safe and affordable housing to the seniors of Rome, we at DCA will share your story. We will tell of your success, we will use you as an example of what can happen when people come together to work for a common goal,” Chubb said. “The key partners here have developed a thoughtful, holistic strategy for redeveloping South Rome, and this development is a key piece in making that long term vision possible.”
Mercy Housing Southeast President Charice Heywood said the Etowah Terrace project was started in 2009 when the economy slowed down. She expressed particular gratitude to the Department of Community Affairs, SunTrust Bank, which was both an equity and lending partner, along with the city of Rome.
“There were times when nobody was lending money, people weren’t stepping up to get these projects done, and DCA stepped up,” Heywood said. “We thank them for keeping with us as we needed extension after extension after extension to get it done.”
The project was plagued at the outset by legal challenges filed by community groups who were opposed and tried to stop the project by challenging the rezoning of the property.
“It takes just a ton of partners to get this kind of development done and you wind up with this beautiful affordable housing,” Heywood said.
Rome Mayor Evie McNiece called the project a vision of so many people. She said that Mercy and the South Rome Redevelopment Agency, led initially by Karen Moore, then Melissa Jones, stayed with the community through all of the legal issues.
Forty of the 77 apartments are currently occupied, however, the Mercy Housing leasing office is in the process of vetting other applications and expects to have the entire complex occupied within a matter of a few weeks.
Two of the residents, Walter Fuqua and Mary Alice Slack, spoke to the crowd on Friday, July 20.
“I have lived here for almost a month. I enjoy it so much,” Fuqua said. “It’s the first place that I can really say that I have felt at home in a long time. The people I have encountered living here are like an extended family now.”
“Each time I crossed that bridge (South Broad) I would say that’s where I want to live,” Slack said. “I love my place. It is just beautiful.”
Following the formal presentations, community leaders toured the complex, including a number of unoccupied apartments.
Jones said the ribbon cutting was a celebration of what is yet to come. The agency is now focused on developing multiple lots across South Rome for single-family residential development.