Lately, Hendley Properties seems to have a one-company residential redevelopment program going for downtown Statesboro.
Bob Mikell, chairman of the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority, or DSDA, invoked the rental housing firm's name when he gave the Kiwanis Club a pitch for passage of a Redevelopment Powers referendum for the city in the Nov. 4 election.
"My generation, the millennial generation ... we actually like living in downtown, urban environments where you have access to services, parks, walkability and we've seen that ...," said Mikell. "Ray Hendley has built 50 or 60 new, upscale units in complexes downtown, and they are leased before they're even finished with construction."
What is urban and what is upscale may be matters of opinion, but Mikell, a lawyer who qualifies as an older millennial at 29, was accurate both on the number of residences recently built or rebuilt by Hendley Properties within blocks of South Main Street and the fact that most are rented before completion.
Hendley Properties, owned by Ray Hendley, in business since 1968, now owns about 400 residential units in Statesboro and Bulloch County. Many are in complexes not in downtown, namely Greenbriar, Hawthorne Court, Hawthorne II, the Retreat at Gentilly and Planters Row.
But much of the company's recent new investment is downtown: the Village at Midtown, Magnolia Village and the Fountain at Mulberry. Several of the 60 or so individual homes in the company's inventory are also downtown, notably in a concentration of complexes and single homes continuing to develop along Grady Street.
"Right now, our emphasis is going to be on bringing more professional housing downtown," said Bryan Davis, property manager for Hendley Properties.
Georgia Southern University students are obviously a major part of Hendley's customer base. "Hendley Properties is not just for students," the welcoming blurb on hendleyproperties.com informs people. One-bedroom places downtown are especially in demand with graduate students, professors and other professionals, Davis said, but retirees also occupy a few.
Hendley Properties often gets positive mentions from the DSDA, city planners and even City Council members for willingness to make its homes fit into neighborhoods and a vision of a revitalized downtown.
The new complexes
The Village at Midtown, with 30 one-bedroom apartments in single-story duplexes, is behind Midtown Plaza from South Main. Although the newish commercial plaza, which belongs to other owners, is currently vacant, Midtown Village, Davis reported, remains full.
Completed as all-new construction in late spring 2013, Midtown Village received a few advanced renters then. But Hendley's usual leasing schedule runs August-July, and by its planned opening in August 2013, the Village was 100 percent occupied.
The company purchased the land from the DSDA, which placed certain restrictions on the site, such as requiring that the buildings have all-brick exteriors. This wasn't a problem, Davis said, because the firm prefers brick for its new construction.
"That's really all that we build," he said.
Magnolia Village, with 12 units in six upstairs-downstairs pairs, was created by renovation of a previously unnamed complex on East Grady Street behind Statesboro Regional Library. Hendley Properties refaced both buildings with new windows, siding and roofs. New heating and air-conditioning systems were installed and interiors given fresh features such as exposed beam ceilings in upstairs apartments and all-new appliances. About 25 percent occupied in its previous condition, the rechristened Magnolia Village also remains fully occupied since its initial fall 2013 move-in, Davis said. An individual home between Magnolia and the library also belongs to Hendley, which previously restored the house to its 1940s character.
The Fountain at Mulberry, a little further east on East Grady, is the newest completed complex. It comprises eight one-bedroom, single-story units in a style similar to those at Midtown.
The Mulberry complex's namesake feature is the new fountain on a terraced corner lot. The DSDA provided Hendley Properties a $5,000 grant toward the total cost of about $20,000, with the company promising to maintain the fountain and corner.
Also in this area, Hendley, which built sidewalks within the complex, gave the city an easement to add future sidewalks along the public street, which lacks them. The Blind Willie McTell Trail is steps from these developments.
On the other side of East Grady, Hendley previously removed a partially burned duplex and replaced it with a five-bedroom brick home, now rented to GSU students.
Coming next will be 10 new one-bedroom apartments on West Grady Street at the corner with Walnut Street. The buildings will resemble the separate new duplex, also a Hendley property, recently completed at 15 W. Grady, Davis said.
Boosters such as Mikell say that downtown residents are a vital part of the mix for redevelopment. Obviously, they supply customers within walking distance for shops and restaurants.
Likewise, Hendley Properties backs efforts to spur commercial redevelopment.
"We are really hoping that we will inspire investors and other developers and homeowners to renovate their properties downtown, to bring new properties downtown and to help us get rid of condemned buildings downtown, and also to fill our vacant businesses," Davis said.