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Reeves talks progress in West Point

LANETT — On Thursday, members of the West Point Rotary Club heard an update on future development in West Point. Coleman Reeves, who is with the Downtown Development Authority and the West Point Housing Authority board, was the guest speaker. He said that lots of good things were happening in the city and that citizens should see some major changes in the next four or five years.

“Transitions are taking place,” he said. “We hope to see brick and mortar going up on East 10th Street.”

The first major development is a Georgia Department of Transportation project involving the construction of two roundabouts off of Exit 2 on I-85. This could require some rerouting of traffic while work is going on but will expedite a Love’s Truck Stop just off the exit. Roundabouts have been popular in Europe for many years and are considered safer than a conventional intersection.

A significant upgrade in housing will also be taking place. A 72-unit apartment complex is going to be built across from the junction of O.G. Skinner Drive, next to the Coca-Cola plant. Reeves said that West Point was fortunate to be approved for the HUD project. It’s a $16 million plan and will offer a lifestyle that’s appealing to a broad range of income groups. It’s possible Phase One of the development will be followed by a second 72-unit development. It will also be in the $16 million range. The two units can be spread out over a 13-acre site.

“This will be a mixed income development,” Reeves said. “It’s something we need in our community.”

The current WPHA units were built in the 1960s and 1970s.

“It was a model of public housing at that time, but it’s not beneficial in the way we operate today,” Reeves said. “We know that, but it can be costly to fix it.”

The HUD-approved plan is a godsend for a town the size of West Point. As the new units are built and residents are relocated, some of the old housing units can be coming down. “We hope to break ground on Phase One later on this year,” Reeves said, “and we are hoping to be awarded a second $16 million project. The need is definitely there.”

Phase III is also on the drawing board and would be a 74-unit all-senior complex. It would likely be built on one of the cleared lots closer to the East 10th intersection with Highway 29.

“We want to redevelop and have everyone in new, affordable units,” Reeves said. “There are lots of needs in our city. We have residents living in substandard housing and paying rent to landlords. Our goal is to have every resident of West Point having the opportunity to live in an affordable housing unit. We can provide something better than what we have now.”

Reeves said that approximately one-third of the city’s residents live in public housing.

“Out of our estimated population of 3,600 people, 1,100 of them are in such housing. It’s a big ratio for a town our size,” he said. “We want to change this. We think we can do it in a better way.”

While the three-part plan would have a big impact on the 10th Street Corridor, there’s other activity going on in the city. Harris Creek, a subdivision in the city off Georgia 103, is expanding. An estimated 200 people live in the Abbey Glen apartments off Gabbettville Road near Kia, and a 600-unit complex not far from KMMG is in the planning stages.

Reeves said more in the way of housing needs to be developed in the downtown area near Point University. An estimated 50 students are living on the second floor above the Point cafeteria.

“Housing is a need for West Point and Troup County,” Reeves said. “It’s like the saying from the movie ‘Field of Dreams.” If you build it, people will come.”

Square footage values in the West Point area remain in the affordable range. It’s still less than $100,000. In Lee County, for example, it’s around $160,000.

“We don’t have an abundance of inventory,” Reeves said.

“This is a good time for West Point,” he added. “Some great things are happening. I think we have a huge opportunity to be housing more students downtown. That would be a win-win for both the school and the downtown area. We want to be a successful partner with Point University in being able to do this. We want to create a downtown living vibe. There’s a demand for it.”

Some creative thinking could be in store. It’s possible, for instance, to see golf cart transportation in the downtown area.

As part of the redevelopment of 10th Street, some aging houses were torn down and the lots cleared. Reeves said he was pleased that the affected residents were relocated within the city.

Reeves said he was looking forward to Phase One of the new HUD development near Coca-Cola. He said the two-story units will look very similar to a recent project in Warner Robins. The complex will have a community center, an outdoor garden and a place for wellness treatments.