Jan 14, 2015

What to Do With a Dying Neighborhood

Covington, Georgia, decided not to let a half-completed development sit empty. But the city's solution has been both praised and vilified by observers.


City of Covington Planning and Zoning Department

COVINGTON, Ga.—There are hundreds of stories of failed subdivisions left empty by the housing bust, where homeowners are stuck staring into vacant lots of PVC pipes and weeds. There are very few stories where a half-finished development has been saved from ruin.

The rescue of one such development, by the city in which it is located, is being heralded as a potential solution to some of the worst mistakes of the housing crisis. The local newspaper, the Covington Newspraised the project, writing that “a community has been brought back from the dead.”

That Covington, a city 35 miles east of Atlanta, did anything at all is unusual, said Ellen Dunham-Jones, an architect and urban-design professor at Georgia Tech who has a chapter on the subdivision, Walker’s Bend, in a forthcoming book, Retrofitting Sprawl.

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