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DSDA moving forward with Homes for Heroes
Project to support local police, firefighters
HomesForHeroes Blue

The Downtown Statesboro Development Authority plans to rehabilitate three houses it owns in the Blue Mile corridor and offer them for sale at cost to local police officers and firefighters. For its Homes for Heroes program, the DSDA is seeking businesses, such as those in the building trades, as sponsors.

“We’re supporting our police and firefighters, and we’re revitalizing our community at the same time,” said DSDA Executive Director Allen Muldrew.

The DSDA recently purchased the houses at 9, 11 and 14 West Inman St., which in their deteriorated condition had a combined tax appraisal value of about $95,000. All are three-bedroom, wood-frame houses dating from the 1930s and 1940s. They are within two blocks of South Main Street, in the stretch between the Bulloch County Courthouse and Georgia Southern University that has been labeled the Blue Mile.

Until recently, South Main, a section of U.S. Highway 301, has been dotted with vacant and dilapidated commercial buildings, several of which have now been repurposed or torn down. The Blue Mile, adopting the GSU Eagles’ dominant color, names a redevelopment vision for a corridor extending some blocks on either side of the highway.

Statesboro City Council approved a Tax Allocation District, or TAD, encompassing the Blue Mile after voters passed an enabling referendum last November. Property tax revenue from new construction or rising property values in the district is dedicated to improvements there.

Bob Mikell, chairman of the DSDA board also a vice president of Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County, has urged the inclusion of residential development in plans for the Blue Mile.

“Whenever you have a redevelopment plan you can’t focus solely on commercial because you leave the residents out, and the residents are your potential customers,” Mikell said. “But there’s no one entity that can really tackle affordable home ownership by itself.”

So Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit that builds reduced-cost homes for sale to people who could not afford one at full price, is also looking at buying lots in the district. Mikell also wants to use TAD resources to attract affordable housing or senior-living complexes.


‘Good neighbors’

But the DSDA is ready to move forward with Homes for Heroes. Muldrew said the first house could, possibly, be renovated in about four months, but cautioned that he is not making a firm prediction.

While pitching Homes for Heroes to potential sponsors as a way of showing appreciation to the public safety professionals, the DSDA is also pursuing the theory that police and firefighters will be stable homeowners and a positive neighborhood influence.

“It’s twofold,” Muldrew said. “Our goal is to put our hometown heroes and their families into these homes as good neighbors, and we also want to offer our police and firefighters a great home at a great price.”

Remodeling the old houses instead of allowing them to be replaced with new buildings will “maintain the integrity of the neighborhood,” he said. That has also been one of the DSDA’s goals with its renovation projects on commercial buildings.

In a letter to be sent to businesses and civic groups, Muldrew describes the three houses as structurally sound but in need of heating and air-conditioning systems, “plumbing, painting, bathrooms, kitchens and more.”

The authority will use in-kind contributions of labor and materials, as well as monetary donations, to reduce the cost of the renovations and the eventual price of the homes, Muldrew said.

The idea, according to Mikell, is to limit the selling prices to the DSDA’s costs in buying and renovating the houses.

“Through the donations that people are providing and the efforts of the DSDA, we would sell it to a first responder or a police officer at the cost the DSDA has put into it,” Mikell said.

Muldrew plans to place a sponsor board outside at 11 W. Inman St. to list the names of donors.


‘Community effort’

Georgia Southern University students have been early contributors of time and labor. A group of incoming first-year students spent a day in July clearing trash from 14 W. Inman St. They were part of a larger cohort of freshman volunteers who worked with local nonprofit agencies on various projects during the university’s annual summer BUILD program.

Since then, a construction management class has spent several Fridays helping prepare 11 W. Inman for reconstruction, and students from the GSU Finance Association have devoted two Saturdays to the same purpose, Muldrew said.

“I would like it to be a community effort,” he said. “This is not about the DSDA; it’s about honoring and supporting those who serve us.”

The Downtown Statesboro Development Authority operates with administrative backing from the city of Statesboro, but has a separate governing board. The authority receives a share of hotel-motel tax revenue.

The DSDA has bought and rehabilitated several dilapidated, often long-vacant commercial properties in the downtown area. But this is its first project involving home ownership.

By taking a risk on these houses, the authority hopes to start a trend where private buyers will renovate more homes in the district, Muldrew said.

“If we can be a catalyst to get something started, then we believe that private businesses can come in and take over,” he said. “We’re not here to compete with builders and developers by any means.”

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.




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