Decatur Housing Authority’s Oliver House at Allen Wilson Named ARC 2013 Development of Excellence

As published in City Biz List Atlanta, November 4, 2013.

Oliver House, the innovative, affordable senior housing complex developed by the Decatur Housing Authority (DHA), has been named the 2013 Development of Excellence by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). The community was selected for exemplifying cutting-edge, livable design that enhances the community around it, according to the ARC. Oliver House is Phase II of the DHA’s $30 million redevelopment of the former Allen Wilson Terrace public housing project in the heart of Decatur.

“We are pleased to recognize developments and places that offer new options for living or add to our general quality of life,” said ARC Chairman Tad Leithead. “These projects and their success show us that metro Atlantans want to create a better region today and for the residents of the future.”

“We are extremely proud that Oliver House has been honored as the 2013 Development of Excellence by the ARC,” said DHA Executive Director Douglas S. Faust. “It was designed and built as an EarthCraft Multifamily-certified building, which was not only the right thing to do, but it is already paying dividends in reduced costs for both the Decatur Housing Authority and the building’s residents. In fact, the building exceeds the requirements for EarthCraft Communities and EarthCraft House Multifamily. We believe Oliver House is a showcase for other communities for what is possible in green design and quality construction of affordable senior housing.”

The $12.6 million Oliver House is an attractive, four-story Williamsburg-style building with 72 one-bedroom and eight two-bedroom high-efficiency HVAC apartments created for independent senior living and built by NorSouth Constructs. The 82,419-square foot brick structure is designed in a traditional style of brick, cast stone and stucco by Aiken Housing Design Partner Architecture, Inc., (formerly HADP Architecture) and blends in well with Decatur’s ongoing redevelopment. There is almost one acre of permanent green space within the community, and walking trails give residents easy access to nearby amenities and public transportation. The building’s common areas and individual apartments have been designed for the safety and comfort of the senior residents.

Oliver House amenities include a two-story entrance lobby with a reception counter and lounge, multipurpose community room, two elevators, large kitchen/pantry, conference room, training center, meeting room, roof terrace garden, fitness center, card room, computer room, sun/media room and library. The central courtyard of the U-shaped building is fully landscaped and features a covered porch/patio, seating area and raised-bed gardens. Each unit is barrier-free and includes complete kitchens with Energy Star appliances, electric ranges, microwave ovens, washer/dryer hookups and individual high-efficiency HVAC units, and all bathrooms are equipped with grab bars. Five apartments are accessible. Two are equipped for the visual or hearing-impaired. Oliver House was named EarthCraft Multifamily Project of the Year for 2012 by Southface and the Greater Atlanta Homebuilders Association. It was completed in 2012 and is 100 percent occupied.

The redevelopment of the former Allen Wilson Terrace community is being accomplished in stages, to ensure minimal disruption to the current residents as the old buildings are demolished. Phase I consists of two row-house style apartments for families, which opened in 2001. Phase II is Oliver House and Phase III (final phase) broke ground earlier this year. It will include two 20-unit row-style apartment buildings and five smaller structures in a cluster home setting. When completed later this year, Allen Wilson will provide 191 units of high-quality, environmentally friendly housing, along with onsite amenities for lower-income families and seniors.

“Like all communities, Decatur needed to safely and adequately house low-income seniors,” said Faust. “However, the senior housing units of Allen Wilson Terrace, which had been in use since 1941, were no longer meeting the needs of the senior residents, with small bedrooms, few closets, low ceilings and outdated kitchens. The utility services were inadequate to handle modern requirements and both the sanitary and storm sewer systems were overtaxed. Because of the design of the buildings, it was impossible to create handicap accessible units. But, despite its many problems, Allen Wilson Terrace had an enviable location in the heart of Decatur. We made the decision to build a new, sustainable and attractive community on the site of the old one, so residents could continue to enjoy close proximity to schools, worship centers, retail, restaurants and other city services. It is extremely gratifying that ARC and other organizations have recognized and honored our work to redevelop Allen Wilson.”