Editorials 

Amani Place: First Fitwel-Certified Healthy Housing Rewards Project

Atlana Project a Model for Healthy, Affordable Housing Redevelopment

In October 2019, Jonathan Rose Companies and Columbia Residential celebrated the grand reopening of Amani Place, a garden-style community in Atlanta that sets a new standard for housing redevelopment that’s affordable, sustainable, and health-promoting. Located just 10 minutes east of downtown Atlanta in an area associated with rapid gentrification, Amani Place provides 222 renovated units—all designated for households at or below 60% area median income.

Amani Place is notable for being the first affordable housing development in the Southeast to be certified with Fitwel®, the world’s leading healthy building certification operated by the Center for Active Design. It is also the very first project to participate in Fannie Mae’s Healthy Housing Rewards™ program, which provides financial incentives for borrowers who incorporate health-promoting design and operations features into multifamily affordable rental properties.

Applying Fitwel’s Multifamily Residential Scorecard, the Amani Place redevelopment incorporates a range of new amenities to promote physical, mental, and social health.

  • A comprehensive pedestrian network with safe street infrastructure encourages walking and promotes pedestrian safety
  • An outdoor fitness circuit features a range of permanent fitness equipment and compelling signage to encourage regular physical activity
  • A communal kitchen provides space for regularly-scheduled cooking classes and healthy eating demonstrations
  • A central community center provides common spaces where residents can socialize and engage in on-site programming, including health and wellbeing programs
  • A community garden offers access to fresh produce and a place for social interaction

Keeping the focus on community

“Atlanta’s extraordinary economic success has accelerated the critical need for the preservation of existing affordable housing, and the development of new affordable and mixed income communities, particularly in rapidly transforming areas like Atlanta’s Edgewood neighborhood,” says Jonathan Rose, President and Founder of Jonathan Rose Companies. In fact, the Kirkwood-Edgewood area experienced a 9.5% rent spike in 2016, and the median sale price for a home in Edgewood has tripled in the last five years.

Jonathan Rose Companies and Columbia Residential acquired the property, then known as Edgewood Court, in late December 2017 and immediately began the multi-phase redevelopment process to create Amani Place. Throughout the process, the development team kept residents’ needs front and center—providing accommodations for those who were temporarily relocated, and school bus service so the community’s youngest residents could remain at their local school.

“Ensuring the needs of residents were met throughout the redevelopment process was among our top priorities. In fact, the name ‘amani,’ which translates to ‘peace’ in Swahili, was fittingly chosen by the community’s residents,” said Jim Grauley, co-founder and partner at Columbia Residential. “With the help of our partners, Columbia Residential is very proud to preserve and increase affordable housing in Atlanta and welcome both returning residents and new ones to their homes at Amani Place.”

Innovative Financing at Work

The $18 million Amani Place redevelopment was financed largely through an allocation of 4% federal and state low-income housing tax credits, issued by Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), and tax-exempt bonds issued by Invest Atlanta. The project proved to be an ideal candidate for Fannie Mae’s Healthy Housing Rewards (HHR) initiative, and took advantage of Fitwel’s unique Two-Step Certification Pathway for HHR projects in order to raise the financing needed for major renovations. Fitwel offers HHR projects a preliminary certification review within six weeks, followed by a final certification review once renovations have been implemented. Thanks to this pathway, the Amani Place development team received a lower interest rate on their loan to fund the project’s health-promoting renovation plans. Key milestones in the HHR + Fitwel process can downloaded here.

Lisa Creighton, CfAD’s VP of strategy and development notes, “Amani Place’s 1 Star Fitwel Rating and participation in Healthy Housing Rewards effectively demonstrates how any project can be designed and operated to support the health of residents, regardless of budget.”

 
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    Images courtesy of Columbia Residential and Jonathan Rose Companies.