By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published September 15, 2011
This August, the complex was purchased by the Paces Foundation, which plans to expand the facilities and rename it Highland Manor.
The groundbreaking for the first phase of the expansion took place Aug. 19 at the Cumming property. A reunion of sorts, the event brought together longtime partners and benefactors of the project who have been involved since its inception.
Among them was George Aulbach, one of the people responsible for Good Shepherd Place as well as other archdiocesan building projects, such as St. George Village and archdiocesan schools completed in 1999 and 2000.
Speaking to a crowd gathered in the lobby, Aulbach reminisced about the origins of the project that has been a residence for many lower-income senior citizens. He recalled working closely with a team of Adrian Dominican sisters who had settled in Forsyth County in the mid-1970s to serve the poor.
“They were teaching school in the North and learned of the needs of underprivileged in Appalachia and decided to come to this area to help them,” said Aulbach. “They established what I call a soup kitchen where anyone needing a hot, nourishing meal could get it cost free, and a thrift store where they sold clothing and other donated goods.”
Their ministry expanded into many areas as they put down roots and established what was known as The Place or Rural Social Services. In time, the sisters began to notice a growing need for affordable housing in the area as they learned many of the people they served were struggling to find a place to live as their rural region became part of Atlanta’s more expensive suburbs. Among the Adrian Dominicans was Sister Kathryn Cliatt, who lived in the county for 35 years, but is now serving in Kenya, Africa.
“I worked with Sister Kathryn. . . . She optioned a piece of land in the area, and with the help of city officials and neighbors, was able to get it rezoned for its present use,” said Aulbach.
At that time, the Archdiocese of Atlanta advanced funds to its subsidiary nonprofit entity Catholic Housing Initiatives, which hired architects and engineers to develop the plans and specifications for what would become Good Shepherd Place.
Additional funding was acquired through tax credits, individual investors and a local bank, which has been involved with the project ever since. Aulbach, the retired president of Laing Properties, was instrumental in working on the complex project and bringing it about.
Good Shepherd Place offered affordable senior citizen apartments for rent to low- and moderate-income seniors who met income guidelines and could live independently. When it opened in November 1993, there was a waiting list to get in. Now, Aulbach said, selling the facility will allow it to expand.
Paces Foundation, which operates affordable housing projects throughout Georgia, South Carolina and now in Texas, will double the size of the facility from 48 units to 96 units with the addition of a second building.
The first phase will rehabilitate the existing 48 one- and two-bedroom units to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified green standards. Phase II will construct a second LEED-certified, 48-unit complex, which will also include a community room, exercise facility, computer room and library, among other amenities. An enclosed walkway is planned to connect the two buildings.
Paces Foundation President Mark du Mas spoke at the groundbreaking, sharing his memories of meeting and working with Aulbach on the project.
“I knew here was a man who had a massive background in building and construction,” said du Mas. “This project would not have been built if not for George Aulbach.”
Two units were open for viewing, with blueprints of the proposed new building available for residents and visitors to examine. Aulbach, du Mas and others also gathered outside for the official groundbreaking of the new building.
Applicants must fit into an income bracket, demonstrating they need affordable housing and can afford their rent, which will range from $549 to $774 a month. The income range to apply for a one-bedroom unit is $11,712 to $29,800 per year. It is $15,144 to $29,880 per year to apply for a two-bedroom unit.
Good Shepherd Place sold for $1.5 million. According to Brad Wilson, chief financial officer of the Atlanta Archdiocese, the archdiocese will first pay off the existing mortgages on the facility. The remainder of the funds will be directed toward Catholic Housing Initiatives, Inc. The CHI board will decide on the best way to use the remaining funds, said Wilson. Those decisions will come well after Good Shepherd Place is sold and the liabilities are settled.
Nancy Coveny, executive director of the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia and former property manager of Good Shepherd Place, is excited to see the project continue and expand, as she experienced firsthand the need for such a facility in the 1990s. She worked closely with Aulbach during the early years of Good Shepherd Place and was happy to be present for the groundbreaking.
“This was his vision,” she said of Aulbach. She remembers the difficulty of having to accept some applicants and turn down others, but was happy to be able to help struggling people find a place to live.
“What I most remember about that time were … all the tears of joy because there were people who did not know where to live,” Coveny said.
“The Catholic Church really built this, with a lot of help and support, and . . . I’m so glad to see what they started will continue through the Paces Foundation,” she said.
Good Shepherd Place is one of two affordable housing projects for seniors for which Catholic Housing Initiatives was responsible. The other, St. Joseph Place, is located on a wooded, six-acre tract of land adjacent to Most Blessed Sacrament Church, southwest of downtown Atlanta. St. Joseph Place is a retirement community offering independent living for self-sufficient seniors 62 years of age or older with income restrictions similar to Good Shepherd Place. Good Shepherd Place was under the direction of the archdiocese for some 18 years before the contract to sell to Paces Foundation.
“I’m happy to see this project being developed to double its size, provide funding for helping low-income people, and refresh my memory of its beginning and the start of my involvement in low-income and affordable housing,” said Aulbach.