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County commission backs Morrow rehab project

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

First Atlantic Capital, LLC will use tax credits to complete a $4 million renovation of Baywood Park Apartments in Morrow, if the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) approves the action.

On Tuesday, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) gave its OK to the project, which includes the upgrading of 120 units in 11 apartment buildings.

The BOC voted unanimously to support the renovation of Baywood Park Apartments, which First Atlantic Capital, LLC owns, along with 25 other metro-Atlanta properties. The vote, according to county officials, will enable the company to apply for tax credits through the DCA to fund the renovation.

According to First Atlantic Capital, LLC Georgia Representative Robert McMaster, the apartments, located at 6655 Mt. Zion Blvd., are 15 years old, and in need of "cosmetic" improvements. He said that, if the company is successful with its tax-credit application, it plans a "full-gut rehab, inside and outside" of the units, which includes installing energy-efficient windows, toilets, and appliances.

"We're removing the vinyl siding and installing HardiPlank, with new color schemes and design schemes," McMaster said. "It's new floor coverings, it's new cabinets, it's new appliances, new fixtures, new toilets, new ceiling fans, new windows, new front doors.

"There's an opportunity with the Department of Community Affairs, to obtain tax credits, which we can then sell to investors, essentially," McMaster continued. "Then, we take the equity we gain from those tax credits and refurbish the property, so it can compete for the next 15 years. We want to be competitive in the market place going forward."

Clayton County Assistant Director of Economic Development, Randall Toussaint, said the improvements will include an expansion of the apartment's clubhouse, a new fitness center, a computer lab, new playgrounds, new park benches, and new lighting schemes. The renovated apartments will also utilize ENERGY STAR appliances and low-flush toilets provided by Toto USA's Morrow facility.

"It demonstrates that private-sector investment is actually taking place in the area in order to revitalize properties," Toussaint said. "It also shows that there is a strong push for green development in this area. By local manufacturers actually taking part in the project, it allows for the renovations to have a spin-off effect through our local economy."

McMaster said the DCA will announce it's tax-credit award winners in December. If approved, the First Atlantic Capital, LLC could begin renovations in the Spring of 2011, he said.

"Through natural attrition and move outs, we would empty one of the buildings," McMaster said. "We would then go in and rehab the building in 14 to 21 days. We then take people in old buildings and move them into the new project we just built, which we pay for .... the residents don't incur any cost at all."

District 1 Commissioner Sonna Singleton, who has championed the project, said it would be "a catalyst for redevelopment" in the south Morrow area, and provide affordable housing for teachers, police officers, and clerical workers.

"As a commissioner, I get quite a few complaints, but with what we are getting ready to do with Baywood, I think it's really going to jump-start that area," Singleton said. Every year, we have new teachers moving to this county. With this redevelopment, it's going to provide teachers with some place to stay until they get settled, buy homes, and so forth. The best thing is ... it's an enhancement for the county."

In another action at the commission meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve a construction agreement with the City of Morrow to build additional parking at Olde Towne Morrow. County Transportation and Development Director Jeff Metarko said the agreement would require the consent of the Morrow Downtown Development Authority, but he expects work on additional parking lots at Olde Towne Morrow could begin in a month's time.

"Right now, there are is no paved parking in Olde Towne Morrow," Metarko said. "We're going to construct the parking lots and the city is going to repay us. This authorizes the chairman to enter into an agreement."

Metarko said the estimated cost of the project would be $130,000. Morrow City Manager Jeff Eady, and Morrow Planning and Economic Development Director Michael McLaughlin could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.