Macon Housing wants to sell community center


Laura Corley | The Macon Newsroom

The Boys & Girls Club of Central Georgia is among several nonprofits headquartered in the Buck Melton Community Center at Anthony Road and Felton Avenue.

The Macon Housing Authority wants to sell the Buck Melton Community Center after nearly 14 years of operating it as a hub of resources for surrounding neighborhoods.

The authority unanimously voted at a meeting Thursday to approve sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Chicago in which it will request permission to sell the 35,000 square feet building at Felton Avenue and Anthony Road.

The community center has an auditorium, a gymnasium and a computer lab. The authority rents space inside to nonprofits, government entities and academic agencies that offer public resources such as job training, daycare, early education classes, credit repair assistance, tutoring and recreational programs. Tenants include the Boys & Girls Club of Central Georgia, the Georgia Department of Health’s Women, Infants and Children, the Macon-Bibb Economic Opportunity Council Inc. and Communities in Schools of Central Georgia Inc.

The building, at 150 Sessions Drive, between Felton Homes and Ingram Pye Elementary School, was originally the site of the McKenna National Guard Armory. The State of Georgia deeded it to the City of Macon in June 2005 for $10, according to Bibb County Superior Court land records. Five months later, the city deeded the four-acre property to the housing authority for it to use for a public purpose, records show.

The housing authority renovated the building in 2008 with about $6 million in HUD money, according to Telegraph archives. It opened in 2009 as a community center named in honor of former Macon Mayor Buckner F. “Buck” Melton.

Since the building was renovated with HUD money, the authority said it must get HUD’s permission to sell the property.

Discussions about the potential sale of the building were sparked by an inquiry from the Boys & Girls Club, which asked last year if the authority would entertain an offer to sell it, housing authority CEO Mike Austin said.

“We started really looking at the financials and we don’t get a subsidy for that property anymore, so the overhead is borne 100% by the housing authority from non-federal funds,” Austin said at the authority board meeting. “Once we started looking at that, we thought it was a good idea to sell it to a like-minded agency who has the same type of mission.”

Facility operations, after income from rent, cost the authority $25k- $30k yearly, Austin said.

Should HUD approve the authority’s plan to sell the building, Austin said the property deed would include a 100-year covenant that would obligate the buyer to use the building as a community center and “continue to make services free for people who are 80% of the area median income or lower.”

“So that we could keep the faith with the community, we’d want to make sure that that was in place in the deed,” Austin said.

Should HUD grant the authority permission to sell the building, the board will decide to whom and for how much it will sell.

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-301-5777 or call [email protected].