Everlener Ferrell’s old public housing apartment in Decatur was very small.
“When you stepped through the front door, you were halfway through the living room,” said Ferrell, who lives in the Decatur Housing Authority’s Allen Wilson Terrace.
The apartment was old, outdated and plagued with roaches and mold. And the bathroom was small, too, she said.
“When you dried off, you practically had to step outside the bathroom to dry off,” Ferrell said.
After 70 years of housing some of Decatur’s lower income residents, the Allen Wilson Terrace complex is being rebuilt. Last month, residents filled the 40 units of the first phase of the construction which replaces a complex that was in disrepair, even after major upgrades beginning in 1970. The new construction consists of two, three-story buildings with one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Two-story townhouses top a ground floor consisting of flats.
“It’s beautiful,” Ferrell said of her new townhouse. “Nobody’s ever lived here before.”
Ferrell said she can breathe easier in the new building and it has abundant natural lighting. And it has a designated place for a washer and dryer, unlike her old apartment, which had the laundry machines in the kitchen.
“I thank God for it,” Ferrell said. “It’s a wonderful blessing.”
Rebuilding on the same site “allows us to preserve that housing resource in Decatur,” said Paul Pierce, executive director of the Decatur Housing Authority.
“The location is so attractive for a person on a lower income level,” Pierce said. “It’s a great location to have affordable housing.”
The new construction also fits in with the continued revival of downtown Decatur, Pierce said.
The units in the old Allen Wilson complex are functionally obsolete, compared to current standards: rooms and closets are small; and plumbing pipes are not designed for washing machines.
The new, up-to-date units feature washer/dryer connections, dishwashers, sprinkler system, accent walls, granite countertops, carpet, large closets and nine-foot ceilings.
Construction will begin in May on the second phase of the project which is the senior building. The design plans are complete and a contractor has been selected.
The senior building will have 72 one-bedroom and eight two-bedroom units. There will also be space for programs, services and management and maintenance offices.
Allen Wilson was first occupied in 1941 and 29 years later the housing authority’s Swanton Heights was constructed. The two complexes together represented 288 units of housing.
During the three phases of construction, the housing authority will move residents on-site with approximately 40 residents having the option to relocate using Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. The residents will be able to return when the construction is complete.
The housing authority is also planning to sell one-third of the land for a potential condominium development with approximately 150 units. The funds from the sale of this land will help fund the building of the new public housing units.