An $18.5 million project gutted the nine-story residential building at 55 Henderson St. near Powder Springs Street in Marietta.
A public-private partnership between the Marietta Housing Authority and Marietta-based Walton Communities turned what was once known as Henderson Arms into Walton Renaissance on Henderson, which is being touted as an "upscale," yet still affordable, community.
Seniors age 62 and older who have an annual income of less than $23,250 for one resident and $26,550 for two can apply to live in the community. Residents pay 30 percent of their annual income for rent. Every apartment is subsidized with federal dollars.
"So, if you're a typical senior on a fixed income, Social Security, this is a great thing," said Ray Buday, executive director of the Housing Authority.
Built in 1981, the apartments were in desperate need of repair. The roof needed replacing and sometimes leaked.
"Times change," Buday said. "In 1981 what they gave the seniors was a little parlor with a little TV and this little community room with tile floors. Well, that is so yesterday."
The community now contains an exercise room for seniors, a movie theater and more shared space. All 150 units offer one bedroom, one bathroom and 540 square feet of living space.
The Housing Authority has a 51 percent interest in the property with the rest being held by Walton. Of the $18.5 million spent on upgrades, $9.5 million came from low-income tax credits and another $9 million came from a loan backed by the federal government.
"We don't have a lot of money lying around so what we do is we borrow it through these programs," Buday said.
Lynda Ausburn, principal of Walton, lauded her company's local connection as the reason her firm took interest in the project.
"We're passionate about our business in that we love making neighborhoods," Ausburn said.
Renovations took more than a year, and Buday says the authority didn't have a choice but to tell residents they had to move.
"We had to set up a program for them," Buday said. "We didn't have Section 8 for them."
Residents were moved to other Walton communities throughout Cobb.
Buday said the reaction when they were told to leave was "one of trust."
Originally from England, Roesmary Jenner moved into Henderson Arms 19 years ago. She's spent the last year in another Walton community called Walton Ridenhour, at 1425 Ridenour Blvd. near Barrett Parkway in Kennesaw.
Moving was a hassle, but Jenner says she is glad to be back.
"It's been such a lovely place and we've been such a close community," Jenner said. "I'm happy to see all my friends and neighbors back."
Ozzie Grant agrees.
She's lived in the community for two years. Her mother lives on the building's eighth floor and she resides on the third.
Grant says she isn't going anywhere.
"Everything is different and everything is beautiful," Grant said.
New residents are also pleased.
Jessie Walker moved into Walton Renaissance two weeks ago from a home in Powder Springs where she lived with her daughter.
"I love it," Walker said. "It's the best thing that could ever happen to me. Beautiful."
Buday says the community has gotten a great response and already has a waiting list. With a growing population of seniors and retiring baby boomers, he says the need for affordable senior housing isn't going to subside anytime soon.
"I get calls all the time," Buday said. "Somebody's momma, somebody's aunt needs housing. This is a great way to address that."