Located on approximately five acres within the Gillespie-Selden Urban Redevelopment Area in Cordele, Georgia, Gillespie Gardens is the latest renovation proposal in the neighborhood revitalization project that the City of Cordele has been working on since 2008.
Prior to receiving the tax credit award, the City—with ample energy and leadership from the late Edward Beach—applied for and received grant funding, established a revitalization plan for the area, created an active GICH (Georgia Initiative for Community Housing) community, removed blighted structures in the area and made sure that all historic buildings were listed on the National Register. All of this work created an opportunity for the proposed development to be one of the highest-scoring LIHTC Tax Credit developments of 2020.
Currently, the project is under review by the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office. Once this review is finalized, the proposal will be sent to the National Park Service/Department of Natural Resources for federal-level review. Subsequent next steps include the creation and approval of design drawings, historic rehab certification and construction permitting. The anticipated close date for the project is Fall 2021.
The historic site for which the neighborhood is known, The Gillespie-Selden Institute, is a complex of education and medical buildings that first opened as a school for African American children in 1902. In addition to the school, structures on the property have also included two hospitals and a church which served African Americans who were injured or homeless.
“A lot of people locally don’t know any of the history of Gillespie Selden—I am hoping that this is an opportunity for them to learn about its impact,” explains Mary Beal, Cordele Historian.“Teachers, seamstresses, brickmasons, nurses, bankers—generations of people graduated from here.”
The development involves the adaptive reuse of four historic buildings, all individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the construction of two three-story buildings designed to complement the existing historic buildings and neighborhood. The 53 housing units at Gillespie Gardens will include a mix of efficiency and 1-, 2-, or 3-bedroom units serving individuals and families who are at or below 60% of the area median income.
Designed to serve as a central effort in the revitalization and transformation of the Cordele Historic District, this catalytic housing development is a collaborative effort between the Vecino Group, the City of Cordele, Blackshear Place Business & Events Center, and the St. Paul Presbyterian Church.
“Gillespie Gardens will be a catalyst for the redevelopment of the West side” says Dravian McGill, President of DCMS, who has long been an advocate for reviving Gillespie-Selden. “This will help to further housing and economic development across the street as well as reverse the blight.”
Jerome Outlaw, Chief Financial Officer of the St. Paul Presbyterian Church, has been an advocate for sharing the site’s history of supporting the Black community. “These grounds are to be respected. The individuals who graduated from Gillespie love this school as if it were open today. This is something to connect to—as Black people.”
Honoring the historical and cultural significance of the Gillespie-Selden Institute has been key for all stakeholders in the project. “Respecting the communities we work with is essential to our mission at Vecino,” said Rick Manzardo, President of the Vecino Group. “From the very beginning, everyone involved with Gillespie Gardens has made celebration of this noble and historic place their first priority.”
About the Developer
The Vecino Group is a national housing company dedicated to building a better world, one development, one community at a time. Each project the company undertakes must address a broader need, set an example, give back to the community, and inspire the professionals working on it with a sense of higher purpose. The company has completed more than two dozen impactful housing developments across 15 states.