Rion Rizzo/Creative Sources rion

Puzzle Piece

When Atlanta developer Columbia Residential and the Atlanta Housing Authority led a partnership to finalize the master plan for a 32-acre campus in the city’s downtown Mechanicsville area, the goal was to revive a distressed working-class neighborhood. The partners planned 813 mixed-income rentals and several hundred for-sale units in phases. After 657 rental units were completed and leased with strong demand, the economic collapse in 2008 stopped the plan to build the for-sale homes.

Fooling the Eye

The original rentals were designed in a contemporary loft style to suit the area’s industrial vibe, but for the newest phase of 156 rentals, JHP Architecture/Urban Design in Dallas chose a traditional vernacular, which potential Parkside residents had expressed interest in during the planning stage. Under architect Ronald Harwick, the team designed attached buildings with townhouses above and flats below, and a mix of rooflines, window styles, and columns, giving the look of single-family homes.

Mix Masters

?Both the townhomes and the flats were generously proportioned for families. The flats measure 675 to 780 square feet for one bedroom and 1,076 square feet for two bedrooms. The townhomes come in 1,275-square-foot, two-bedroom plans or 1,329-square-foot, three-bedroom layouts. Although the units are a mix of low-income public housing, workforce, and market-rate units, they were interspersed among 11 buildings to avoid segregating residents economically. Lease-up was completed in four months.

Saving Sustainably

The architects designed the buildings to LEED Silver standards, with insulated walls, floors, and rooflines; Energy Sense fixtures; and Energy Star appliances, lighting, and mechanical systems. To meet the city’s requirement that rainwater be retained and cleaned before being sent to sewers, Planners and Engineers Collaborative, in Norcross, Ga., specified proprietary stormwater devices and downspouts that distribute drainage away from the buildings. The firm also designed a playground, vegetable garden, and courtyard.

Perfect Partners

The entire project’s development costs totaled $18.4 million, funded by private dollars and both federal and state low-income housing tax credits. Other groups played a significant role in planning and adding value to the community since work got under way eight years ago, including SUMMERCH CDC, a neighborhood-based nonprofit; RHA Housing, an area nonprofit housing developer; and the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, the country’s largest foundation focusing on children living in poverty.