Jim Chapman, Gainesville Housing Authority

Midtown Villages in Gainesville, Georgia, had its fair share of challenges. Not only was the redevelopment project spread across six different sites, but an uncharted approach to financing and the COVID-19 pandemic complicated things even further.

“This was the most complicated project I’ve ever worked on in my 20 years as an affordable housing developer,” says Richelle Patton, president of Collaborative Housing Solutions (CHS). “That was even before COVID.”

According to Patton, lockdowns and sick tenants and contractors all posed difficulties—particularly when it came to relocating residents in the early days of construction.

“We had residents that were sick with COVID, so we couldn’t move them until they were better,” Patton says. “We had subcontractors that were quarantined, too. It was a really big labor of love.”

Jim Chapman, Gainesville Housing Authority

But CHS got the $44.6 million project done, and now Midtown Villages—formerly Melrose Homes—is “changing the face of what affordable housing looks like,” as Patton puts it.

The property boasts six modern buildings and 200 units. Everything from the roof and flooring to the electrical systems, paint, windows, and doors are new, and units are outfitted with central HVAC systems—a first for the circa 1950 property.

“One of the biggest things that’s really had an impact for residents is the HVAC systems,” Patton says. “Residents have central air for the first time ever.”

Midtown Villages also offers residents a variety of much-needed services. The local food bank comes weekly, offering fresh produce, dairy, and meat, and a summer camp and health screenings are offered on-site, too.

The community’s standout feature, though, is its multifaceted arts education initiative, which includes on-site art classes, an art and crafts room, guest lectures, murals, sculptures, and more.