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Feds deny funding for Heritage House project

ALBANY -- A controversial $16 million project to rehabilitate one of the city's largest eyesores has been denied by federal authorities, city officials confirmed Thursday.

Developer Romeo Comeau, using the city's department of Economic Development as a conduit, was asking the Department of Housing and Urban Development for access to $16 million in grant funding to transform the former hotel into low to moderate income housing and senior housing.

Assistant City Manager Wes Smith said Thursday that officials associated with the development would now regroup with the city to work out a new plan of action for the facility.

"He had told the commission that if it fell through that they would try and seek alternate means of funding," Smith said.

The move now puts the city in an awkward position.

In limbo for nearly 16 years, city officials must now decide whether to give redevelopment of the property another try and extend the timeline further or to clear the property, which would be an expensive process.

As second-hand lienholders on the property, it would cost the city roughly $1 million to demolish the property, which would then have to be converted into a park or some other non-commercial use and come off the tax roles, city officials say.

According to documents obtained by The Herald Thursday, only one project was funded using the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 grants in Georgia.

The Center for Community Self-Help in Atlanta will use the money to fund loan loss reserves, a financing mechanism, which will provide additional security for repaying various types of financing, which include lease-purchase mortgages, direct home mortgages, developer credit lines, and mortgages for investor-owned properties for a proposed 560 foreclosed residential properties in the metro-atlanta area, according to HUD's Web site.

In total, of the states that received NSP2 funding, Georgia had the third lowest total behind New Mexico and Connecticut. Georgia received $3.4 million out roughly $1.9 billion dispersed nationwide.

According to HUD, "This round of this round of NSP grants is being awarded competitively to applicants who developed the most innovative ideas to address the impact the foreclosure crisis has had on local communities, while demonstrating that they have the capacity to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars."