Melaver, Inc., will soon break ground on Sustainable
Fellwood, a 320-unit mixed-income, mixed-use green
development in Savannah, Ga.
The 27-acre development will replace the state's first
public housing site, Fellwood Homes, built in 1940.
Though it's the first large-scale residential
development that the Savannahbased Melaver has undertaken,
the company's track record of building green developments,
its status as a local 65- year-old family-owned business,
and its development partners convinced the Housing
Authority of Savannah to give it the nod.
Melaver produced the city's first Leadership in Energy
and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified structure, the
preservation of a historic office building called The
Whitaker Building, in August 2003. The company also
developed the nation's first LEED-certified retail center
in Savannah. Dubbed Abercorn Common, the shopping center
included the first LEED-certified McDonald's restaurant,
completed in November 2005.
"We always like to say we were into green before it was
cool," says Denis Blackburne, Melaver's chief financial
While its green credentials were strong, Melaver had
little affordable housing expertise. So it partnered with
Georgiabased nonprofit affordable housing developers
Progressive Redevelopment, Inc., and Parallel Housing,
Inc., on the project. Both companies had experience working
with the state and local housing authorities. Melaver also
partnered with Vanguard Distributors, Inc., a local
minority-owned business with deep roots in the Fellwood
Sustainable Fellwood is due to break ground in early
summer. The first phase will feature 110 rental units, and
the second phase will also total 110 units, as well as 100
additional rental units of mixedincome seniors housing. The
final phase will see the development of 44,000 square feet
of retail and office space. The project is slated for
completion in 2011.
The project will take part in the LEED Neighborhood
Development pilot program, a melding of green building
standards with a focus on making whole neighborhoods
sustainable. The inclusion of commercial space was a
natural outgrowth of LEED's guiding principles of building
walkable communities, Blackburne said. Melaver is in talks
with a community health clinic and also hopes to locate a
local library branch in the commercial space.
The development will employ several green features such
as paints, sealants, and adhesives with low levels of
volatile organic compounds; energy recovery ventilator
systems, which transfer heat and moisture between incoming
and outgoing air; and efficient water features, such as
dual flush toilets and low-flow showerheads and faucets,
which can reduce water consumption by 30 percent.
Additionally, several park spaces and an organic community
garden will be among the project's amenities.
Melaver solicited much community input on the
development's layout, meeting with the local neighborhood
association several times early in the planning stages.
"Some really good advice came out of that," said
Blackburne. "We originally had the seniors units off to the
side, in a nice quiet place, but the community said, 'Bring
the seniors closer to the retail and the bus stop.'"
Of the development's first 220 rental units, 40 percent
will be for public housing, another 40 percent will target
those earning up to 60 percent of the area median income,
and the final 20 percent will be rented at market rates.
Sustainable Fellwood will also feature 10 single-family
for-sale units, some of which will sell for as low as
$90,000 through a city assistance program called
DreamMaker. The income levels of the seniors housing
component had yet to be determined at press time.
Putting the deal together
The first phase of Sustainable Fellwood received $8
million in federal low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs),
and another $8 million in state tax credits. The federal
credits fetched about 90 cents to 95 cents each, and the
state credits were sold for about 25 cents each, adding up
to about $9.9 million in total LIHTC equity for the
project. SunTrust Community Development Corp. provided the
LIHTC equity, as well as nearly $2 million in debt.
For its part, SunTrust Community Development Corp. said
the retail portion of Sustainable Fellwood would be a good
fit for New Markets Tax Credits (NMTCs). SunTrust received
a $100 million allocation of NMTCs in October. "Fellwood is
a deal where we can bring in retail to complement the
housing, and make the deal pencil out with heavy subsidies
from the NMTCs," said Paul Woodworth, SunTrust's senior
Additionally, more than $3 million in financing will
come from the Department of Housing and Urban Development
in the form of replacement funds, since Sustainable
Fellwood replaces public housing on land owned by the
The first and second phases will cost about $15 million
each, and the total cost of development, including the
commercial space and single-family homes, is nearly $50
million. Melaver will apply for the same amount of LIHTCs
for the second phase, as well as additional LIHTCs for the
seniors housing component. Each member of the development
team will defer developer fees to help the project pencil
Melaver also received assistance from the city, which
has pledged $4.5 million for infrastructure development.
Additionally, the city designated the area as an Enterprise
Zone, which offers property tax abatements. Home Depot has
also pledged a six-figure grant, though Melaver said it was
too early in the process to name the exact amount.