Columbia Housing breaks ground on development at the former site of Gonzales Gardens

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Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 8:21 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 15, 2022 at 8:50 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - More affordable housing will soon be coming to the capital city.

After sitting vacant for several years, the site of the Gonzales Gardens public housing community will be getting a makeover.

The Columbia Housing Authority and other partners, including general contractor Ward Mungo Construction, broke ground this week on the Oaks at St. Anna’s Park.

It will be a 285-unit development on Forest Drive across from MUSC Medical Center.

“Development of the Oaks at St. Anna’s Park represents a major step in the fulfillment of our Vision 2030 plan to provide quality affordable housing,” Columbia Housing Interim Chief Executive Officer Yvonda Bean said.

Bernard Wanzer, who was born and raised in Columbia, said he remembers Gonzales Gardens fondly.

Before it was demolished in 2017, it was the oldest public housing complex in the city.

Wanzer and his friends spent a lot of time hanging out there growing up. He said he’s thankful to the Columbia Housing Authority for getting this project off the ground because many people were waiting for this day.

“Thank you, Columbia Housing Authority, for not forgetting your people,” he said.

Wanzer said based on the renderings, this will be the most beautiful thing he’s seen in the city.

“We can’t ask for nothing more better, and it’s affordable,” he said. “And that’s the whole purpose of them building it for people who are not fortunate enough to have enough money to buy the kind of homes that they want. But these homes here, what they’re putting up here, it’s a blessing in disguise. It’s a blessing with miracles for everybody who could move in.”

The development will consist of a 95-unit senior building, and 190 family townhomes.

Many residents will have their rent subsidized. Columbia Housing Authority said the senior center will be reserved for those making no more than 50 percent of the area median income, and the majority of the townhomes will be for renters making no more than 60 percent of the area median income. 19 of the townhomes will have no income limits.

“The need for affordable housing in Columbia, like in many cities across the country, is great,” Ernest Cromartie III, Columbia Housing Authority Board Chair, said. “We are delighted to bring the Oaks at St. Anna’s Park to the Midlands, and we are excited about the positive economic impact it will have on the area.”

Columbia At-Large Councilman Howard Duvall agreed.

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“It’s badly needed,” he said. “We have 6,000 units that we need to fill an affordable housing gap so this is a start towards it.”

Wanzer lives in another apartment complex in the city, but said he’d be interested in potentially moving to the Oaks once construction is complete.

“I want me one of them suites,” he said. “Yea, I want one of them apartments, yea. Hey, look here, a millionaire would want one of these. A millionaire would want of these here. Yes sir, these here look good.”

The first units are expected to be ready next summer, with the full project completed by January 2024.

According to the Columbia Housing Authority, the senior center will be completed first.

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