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Housing Authority to handle Legacy Terrace

The Columbus Housing Authority is poised to take over management of Legacy Terrace, an apartment complex that the city is purchasing in the Liberty District.

Today, the city’s Community Reinvestment Department plans to ask Columbus Council to OK an agreement with the housing agency.

“We’re going for approval to get a management agreement with the housing authority,” said Joe Riddle, director of the Community Reinvestment Department, “and they will be our leasing agent and managing agent over at Legacy.”

Then, on Wednesday, the city will close its $1,050,000 purchase of the 17-unit Legacy Terrace property from Fourth Street Towers Inc., which hasn’t leased most of the rowhouse apartments geared toward seniors. Fourth Street Towers, a subsidiary of Fourth Street Baptist Church in Columbus, has managed the 801 Ninth St. property since it opened in February 2007.

The Rev. J.H. Flakes, chairman and chief executive officer of Fourth Street Towers and pastor of Fourth Street Baptist, explained that the nonprofit organization is struggling with the same recessionary forces as the rest of the nation.

“It just caught us at a time when we were not able to handle the load,” Flakes said. “We had to find a way to refinance and restructure.”

Fourth Street Towers is the city’s designated Community Development Housing Organization. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that a nonprofit organization be set up to develop and maintain properties that receive federal funds.

But Fourth Street has rented only four of the 17 units. That led it to approach the city for help several weeks ago.

On March 24, the city agreed to buy the property rather than have it foreclosed upon. If that had occurred, the city, as administrator of the home-funding program, would have had to return $1.6 million in federal funds, plus lose Legacy Terrace and eight pieces of property used for loan collateral.

After the sale closes Wednesday, the Columbus Housing Authority will begin managing and marketing Legacy Terrace. Riddle said that should help place renters in the gated property that faces the Muscogee County Jail on one side, with railroad tracks feet away from units on another side.

“They do that as a normal course of their business,” Riddle said of the housing authority’s leasing abilities. “So I’m very confident that they will be able to lease them up.”

The agency manages 1,542 public housing apartments at 12 sites in the city. As of last Friday, there were nine units vacant, said Len Williams, executive director of the Columbus Housing Authority.

But he stopped short of saying how quickly he might be able to lease all of the Legacy Terrace units. He also would not speculate on why Fourth Street Towers could not do so.

The four apartments are being rented for $480-$700.

Each apartment, accessible for the disabled and built for residents 55 and older, has 750 square feet of space, with a washer, dryer, stove and refrigerator. The apartment complex sits on 1.96 acres.