Situated in south DeKalb, Hidden Hills was once a thriving golf course community.
The 18-hole private golf course that opened in 1974 has been closed since 2006 and the 1,600-home community is suffering from the effects of the country’s economic slowdown and high unemployment. Approximately 10-15 percent of the homes have been foreclosed on.
Several years ago, “a lot of people were buying homes that they couldn’t afford,” said Ken Saunders, vice president for external affairs for the Hidden Hills Community Association. “Many buyers used adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) to purchase their homes and when the rates adjusted upward, they were unable to afford the payments.”
And with the foreclosures came blight.
“The banks themselves weren’t maintaining the properties,” Saunders said. And residents had to get a court order to force the owner of the defunct golf course to maintain its property. “Hidden Hills has been one of the hardest hit areas in the county.”
But it is no longer being ignored. Residents are hoping a $5.2 million federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP3) grant and special zoning will serve as catalysts for revitalization.
The revitalization of Hidden Hills “will spur a lot of growth in the area,” Saunders said. “Hidden Hills is one of those communities that can drive the redevelopment of an area.”
The purpose of the grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is to stabilize and revitalize neighborhoods affected by high foreclosures. At least 25 percent of the monies are required to be used to house low-income families.
“If there are foreclosed homes that are eligible for the NSP3 funding, there’s an opportunity for those homes to be acquired, renovated and sold to other homeowners,” said Chris Morris, the county’s director of community development.
Businesses in the Hidden Hills area and business owners who live in the community could benefit from the construction work required to implement the NSP program.
“For businesses just to acquire, renovate and resell, there are business opportunities in each of those major functions,” Morris said. Construction workers, renovators and realtors will be needed for the program. “There are so many business opportunities in order to achieve those.”
One of the NSP’s goals is “to help create jobs, help small businesses, help local and DeKalb businesses,” Morris said.
County representatives met with approximately 200 business owners on Sept. 16 “to make sure that DeKalb County is doing everything possible to inform the business community about possible job and business opportunities,” Morris said. Many of the participants specifically invited by the county were business owners who live in the greater Hidden Hills community.
The county is currently seeking proposals from business owners to provide services for the Hidden Hills project. The proposals are due by Oct. 24. Morris said that contractors should be selected by the end of the year and work should begin by the first of the year.
In addition to the HUD money, special zoning, called an overlay district, will help community leaders control what type of business comes into the area.
The Greater Hidden Hills overlay district includes sections of Covington Highway and Hairston, Panola and Redan roads. It also incorporates several other subdivisions, including Chapman Mill and Mainstreet.
The overlay divides the district into five tiers to guide future development in the community. One tier would allow medium density development around the intersection of Covington Highway and South Hairston Road. This area would allow the development of retail, office and residential buildings in mixed-use areas with a maximum building height of five stories.
A second tier, located along Redan and Panola roads, would include mixed-use development with buildings being restricted to three stories. Other tiers include preservation of open spaces that are flood hazard areas restricted to recreational uses; and conservation of open space used for recreation areas and limited associated structures.
A fifth tier is a neighborhood mixed-use area that allows for increased density and building heights.
With the NSP funding and the overlay district, which is awaiting approval by the Board of Commissioners, “the whole area is really set for a huge transformation in the next few years,” Saunders said.