News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Some don't want to leave, arguing it's all they know. Others gave me thumbs up when News 12 told them the news, but most everyone agrees, in that area, it's time for some change.
"Cherry Tree, it was built in 1940, it's served its purpose. It's outlived its life. The rooms are small, the buildings are old, and they're not even air conditioned," said Augusta Housing Authority Director of Planning and Development Richard Arfman.
That's why the Augusta Housing Authority has decided it's time to tear down Cherry Tree Crossing and build something new on the same spot.
But that means the 365 families that live here will have to go.
Debbie Demmons has lived there her whole life. She fears people aren't going to be happy with the new decision.
"It's gonna be bad. I think it's gonna be bad. These people gonna really nut up. I mean there ain't nothing they can do, but these people are gonna be devastated," Demmons said.
"We've learned a lot about doing this at Gilbert Manor and Underwood Homes about relocating and keeping their nerves satisfied, because we work with them, not against them. We don't just boot them out," Arfman said.
Arfman says everyone who lives here will get one-on-one counseling about where they want to be moved.
But it's not a done deal yet. The Housing Authority has to submit a demolition application and HUD has to sign off on it.
If they do approve, it means an new mixed-use development much like the new Walton Oaks.
Some say leaving Cherry Tree is a good opportunity, especially with its history of violence.
Anthony Coker has lived there for two years.
"It's a pretty bad place, lot of violence going on. Most of the community probably be happy to get from out here, because they just tired of being out here, been out here for years and couldn't go nowhere, and now it's an opportunity for them to be able to get them out of here," he said.
"Hopefully it'll improve the quality of living conditions in there. I think it'll reduce crime in there, and hopefully it'll upgrade the entire community around there," Arfman said.
There are still a lot of questions to be answered, though.
"Will these citizens have the opportunity to come back or will it be set at another income level where they won't qualify to get in?" asked Augusta Branch NAACP President Dr. Charles Smith.
"We always give them the first chance to come on back to the same Cherry Tree Crossing or whatever we call it at that time," Arfman said.
A public meeting is scheduled with families next Tuesday at 4 p.m. It will be at Cherry Tree Crossing.
Arfman also says he hopes to coordinate his rebuilding efforts with improvements to the 15th Street corridor the city's doing.
They expect to have approval by the middle of next year, and if that comes through, they can help people make the move next summer so they don't have to disrupt the kids in school.
Demolition would happen in 2014.
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