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Beginning of the end

The Shallowford Gardens apartment complex held a Moving Fair for residents on June 29 to allow for a smooth transition for displaced renters. Photo by R. Scott Belzer

Shallowford Gardens hosts ‘Moving Fair’

  

Immigration lawyers, real estate agents and nonprofits came together at the Shallowford Gardens apartment complex on June 29 to celebrate a Moving Fair event for residents.

 Renters will be required to vacate Shallowford Gardens—located at 3630 Shallowford Road in Doraville—by Aug. 31 following a $8.2 million purchase agreement between former owner John Lantz and the DeKalb County School District (DCSD).

 DCSD plans to build a 900-seat elementary school to alleviate overcrowding at nearby Dresden and Cary Reynolds elementary schools.

 In the process, more than 100 familie who currently live at the complex—mostly low-income and non-English speaking—will be forced to seek housing elsewhere. Each leaseholder will receive a $2,250 incentive to help with moving costs.

 The Moving Fair gave residents a chance to enjoy an evening outdoors, eat ice cream, feast on popcorn and seek resources to allow an even smoother moving process.

 John Lantz said the purpose of the Moving Fair was to make sure renters, DCSD and himself have a pleasant experience over the next six weeks.

 Lantz said DCSD has been “very supportive, almost a little pushy” in asking him when he will again meet with residents and inform them of options. Lantz and DCSD representatives first met with residents on June 14, one day after the purchase agreement was made.

 “Now that it’s official, we’re finding out what issues have come up since then and how we can help,” Lantz said. “The general reaction is, because of the support from both Shallowford Gardens and DCSD and moving benefits, it’s enough to get almost everyone started at a new place.”

 According to Lantz, the majority of the financial incentive is coming from DCSD.

Former Shallowford Gardens owner John Lantz said he held the Moving Fair to make sure the moving experience, which will affect more than 100 non-English speaking, low-income families, is a “pleasant experience” for all parties involved. Photo by R. Scott Belzer

Former Shallowford Gardens owner John Lantz said he held the Moving Fair to make sure the moving experience, which will affect more than 100 non-English speaking, low-income families, is a “pleasant experience” for all parties involved. Photo by R. Scott Belzer

 DCSD will leave future meetings with residents up to Lantz as per the purchase agreement, Lantz said. He declined to say how many meetings have taken place with DCSD but said “there have been quite a few for quite a while,” which were at first, “tenuous.”

 Lantz said there were no “absolute commitments” or “anything binding” until the contract was signed June 12 at DCSD’s board of education meeting. He said there was communication with city representatives in Doraville, including city manager Shawn Gillen and Mayor Donna Pittman.

 According to Atlanta real estate consultant Diman Nyembwe, who was present at the moving fair, options for Shallowford Gardens residents are available.

 “Here the prices are relatively affordable—I think they are topping out at $750 or $800,” Nyembwe said. “There are quite a few similar options. In this area, they’re going to be paying a little more, maybe $650 to $900.”

 Nyembwe said residents asked which complexes ask for tax identification numbers, if there are houses available to rent in Doraville and if there are options comparable to Shallowford Gardens.

 Nyembwe also said Shallowford Gardens residents are facing low vacancy rates at nearby housing, especially in the timeframe they are required to work in.

 “[Residents] have to move in a very short period of time,” Nyembwe said. “People are just looking for places to go. We’re trying to keep them in the community they are used to and keep them in the same area. We’re trying to minimize the burden.”

 Former Cross Keys High School teacher Rebekah Morris was at the moving fair representing Los Vecinos de Buford Highway to provide residents with moving resources. Similarly, the Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS) was present to provide any resources residents may need.

 Morris said she has contacted nearby churches to see who may have access to a UHaul or similar vehicles.

 “This is a rare thing to see in an apartment complex,” Morris said. “I actually credit the former owners in trying to make this a smooth transition.”

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  1. Tim Snyder says:

    I wonder why the mayor of Doraville allowed this to happen in secret? This apartment area is a large part of the Livable Community Initiative that Doraville residents and Council voted for and this area is supposed to be all zoned residential.The fact that Mayor Pittman kept this a secret from her Council and constituents is very suspicious and telling of her self-serving style of “leadership”. And why would the DCSD squander 8.2 million taxpayer dollars to buy an apartment complex when they already own more than 12 acres of unused land at Sequoia middle school, one mile away from these apartments? Why wasn’t the 8.2 million dollars spent on building and/or improving new and existing schools?
    Something is very wrong about this deal and taxpayers were purposefully kept in the dark by Mayor Pittman and the DCSD.

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