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Habitat building 51-home development

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity announced a coming development of 51 homes in Jonesboro.

The project, set to begin construction, in September, will be built off of Iron Gate Boulevard, near Avery Drive. It is being done in partnership with the Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, and major funding is coming from the Woodruff Foundation.

The development will be the largest, to date, for Habitat in the Southern Crescent area, according to Steve Teske, juvenile court judge and chairman of the Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity board.

"This land has been sitting here for a long time," Teske said on Monday. "For a lot of developers, it was just too expensive to develop."

The land -- which was previously owned, and partially donated to habitat by the Kopper Corporation -- sits on a finger of granite rock, said Brenda Rayburn.

Rather than trying to blast the granite for the foundations of the homes, the organization is building fewer homes, laid out around the highest part of the rock finger, and leaving a large swath of greenspace.

Eldrin Bell, the chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners and the honorary chair of the Habitat development, said that greenspace is the "beauty of it."

"We're taking the characteristics of the current configuration," Bell said, "and building with it."

There will be walking trails around the development and the preserved trees, and the homes, themselves, will be more environmentally friendly.

They will be certified by Energy Star and Earthcraft, "meaning environmentally responsible building materials and techniques, lower utility bills, improved indoor air quality, reduced water usage and lower maintenance costs over the life of the homes," according to Cara Welch, the chief development officer.

The environmental effort is new for the Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity, but reflects its ongoing effort to build affordable homes that "don't look like affordable homes."

The building-and-material policy made the development eligible for the Woodruff grant, along with the cooperation between the Atlanta and Southern Crescent Habitat operations.

Habitat officials also hope the environmental efforts will bring in new donors, enticing businesses to get involved as a way to show that environmentally friendly supplies and practices, while more expensive, are not just for suburban McMansions.

Rayburn said they have calculated that the project will have a direct economic impact of about $4.5 million, most of which will be paid in contracts with local business.

Bell said he was excited by the opportunities the development will provide. "You hear me talk about building a bigger team," he said. "We'll, here's an example."

Bell and the officials believe the Habitat development will also be a boost to the neighborhood, because the new environmentally friendly houses, and the large swath of greenspace, will be attractive, and also because the residents of the single-family homes will be carefully selected and thoroughly educated on home ownership.

Habitat defines itself as an organization that promotes, "dignity in home ownership," develops "sustainable communities," and instills "pride," "changing lives forever." All are things, according to Bell, of which, Clayton County needs more.