WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Last week's Warner Robins Downtown Development Authority (DDA) meeting made headlines when board chairman Sam Evans abruptly resigned, alleging "unethical" behavior by some other board leaders. It wasn't the only news to come out of the meeting.
After Evans' departure, two developers from two separate Georgia companies presented a plan to turn Perkins Field into a more than $15 million affordable housing complex.
City leaders seem confident that's what's going to happen.
"That's happening," said Councilman Clifford Holmes when we asked him.
He went on to say that he expects a groundbreaking some time this summer. So far, city council has not voted on the project. The site, located on Watson Boulevard between Maple and Mulberry streets is less than a block from City Hall. It's currently home to two baseball fields and the International City Farmer's Market. Developers want to transform it into a three building, three-story apartment complex geared primarily towards lower-income tenants.
It would be "90 units in total," said Denis Blackburne with the Woda Cooper Companies. "81 would be covered under this tax credit program, and the income would be restricted to between 50 and 60 percent of the area median income."
State level tax credits would help defray the cost for investors.
Mayor Randy Toms said the more than $15 million expected cost would be shouldered by the developers. The property would be leased to them, but the city would continue to own it.
The proposal included dedicated space that would allow the International City Farmer's Market to remain on the site. It also featured retail space on the first floor of the apartment buildings.
Toms says city council appears to have the necessary 'yes' votes. "On mayor and council, the support is there," he said. He admitted he has some apprehension about the long term upkeep of the complex, but overall, seems to back the project.
When asked if he'd vote in favor of the affordable housing complex now, he said, "I think I would. I think this project is going to turn out to be something good." In a city that's struggled for years to develop a true downtown, he sees this as a referendum on the idea's potential.
"I think that's the greatest question about our downtown -- 'Can it be really be done?'" he said. "It could be the test balloon in the fact that if this don't [sic] work, I don't know what will."