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Investments in South Rome are bringing in residents

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Annette Zamboni moved from Florida to be near her son, and she’s making a home in the Etowah Terrace apartments in South Rome.

“They’re beautiful,” Zamboni said Monday, while relaxing under the complex’ pavilion on the bank of the Etowah River.

“I paid $1,098 a month in Florida, and to move here and have the same quality for a little more than half that … I didn’t look anywhere else.”

The 77-unit complex on South Broad Street for low- to moderate-income seniors opened in 2012. A partnership between the nonprofit Mercy Housing Southeast and South Rome Redevelopment Corp. that began in 2009, the complex was the first major public/private initiative aimed at revitalizing the community.

The Floyd County Public Health Department, a new Boys & Girls Club, a streetscape project and the new Anna K. Davie Elementary School added to the momentum.

Community Development Director Bekki Fox said Monday the years of work are coming into focus quickly now, with the for-profit Laurel Street Residential projects rising on several sites.

“It’s just amazing to me, the progress there’s been since August,” Fox said. “We knew this was going to spur private investment, and it has. That’s when you know it’s paying off.”

A developer also is building two homes on the corner of Myrtle Street and Pennington Avenue, without the tax-credit incentives that Laurel Street sought. And Fox said the SRRDC just got a taker on its offer to give away abandoned lots to qualified people who will build a home and live there.

“These are people who are intentional about moving to South Rome,” Fox said.

Zamboni said she and her neighbors at Etowah Terrace are mildly concerned about Laurel Street’s project across the street. The 23-unit Etowah Bend apartments, set to open in October, will house families with children.

Still, she finds it hard to believe the area where she lives — with a trail along the river leading to downtown Rome and The Captain’s House community building with library and exercise room — once held crumbling shacks in line for condemnation.

“We have a nice group here and it’s very secure,” Zamboni said. “Feeling safe where you live is a big thing.”

Fox said the transformation is continuing through the Laurel Street “scattered site” affordable housing developments.

Burrell Square, a complex of 17 duplexes designed to look like single-family homes between Hardy Street and Nixon Street, is expected to open in October. And the 27-unit McCall Place apartments on South Broad where the old hospital once stood will be ready for occupancy in July.

The federally funded HOMEBUILD project on Wilson Avenue is also moving along. Fox said the new home at 315 is under contract and the one at 311 is ready for sale.

Fox said they’ve also cleared the clouded titles of abandoned lots at 408 and 414 Wilson, and construction will start there soon.

“They have to be mostly built and paid for by the end of June,” she said.

The grant funds construction of new affordable houses in challenged areas. The money from each sale is funneled back into the account for future construction.