Residential corner block approved for demolitionFeb 14th, 2013 | By Will Lewis
| Category: 2013-02-14, Administration, Campus News, News, Spotlight, Spring 2013, Top Headlines
The final countdown has begun for the demolition of 11 houses located across the street from the Fine Arts Building to make room for a four-story apartment with retail space.
South Carolina developer McAlister proposed the plan last year for the residential and commercial facility that will be aimed at students.
The Valdosta City Council approved the immediate demolition of six of the houses on the corner of Brookwood Drive and Oak Street in a meeting on Feb. 4.
The destruction of the remaining five homes has been postponed until March 15 after the City Council decided that the homes held enough historical merit to warrant their preservation.
In the Feb. 4 meeting minutes, Emily Foster, Valdosta historical preservation planner, said that the five remaining houses were architecturally unique and should be preserved, and their demolition would adversely affect the historical district in Valdosta.
McAlister only owns five of the 11 houses, although all the properties are under contract.
Dr. Saeger asked if any home owners were declining to sell their property to McAlister. Bill Nijem, Langdale Vallotton, LLP and McAlister representative declined, saying that McAlister would prefer to have bought all of the properties at once but was unable to do so.
Dr. Richard Saeger, vice chairman of the Historical Preservation Committee and political science professor, said that McAlister Development must continue the good faith efforts specified in the previous meeting regarding the 11 houses with the remaining five properties.
In order to maintain good faith efforts, McAlister must continue to advertise the relocation of the five remaining historic properties.
McAlister is also prohibited from clear cutting on the properties until the beginning of construction, unless it is necessary in order to remove the houses. They must also apply for a permit in order to cut down trees, like live oaks, on the property without first applying for a city permit.
Nijem said that the major concern for McAlister was timeliness. The complex is set to be aimed at student residents, although it will be open to other demographics. Construction would need to start in March or early-April of this year in order to open the complex by fall 2014.
McAlister Development applied for the residential/commercial complex to be listed as a project of special merit. This listing would allow the immediate demolition of all 11 houses on the block.
A project of special merit must significantly benefit the city through its aesthetic presence, or provide significant social benefits for Valdosta.
Nijem said that the complex will have an immense economic impact on the community by creating hundreds of jobs and aiding VSU—by providing housing and retail services within walking distance of the university—according to the minutes from city council meeting on Feb. 4.
Celine Gladwin, Valdosta historic preservation member, denied the request saying that it did not meet the Project of Special Merit provision.