COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — The area once known as High Uptown is coming back to life. And a Columbus developer with family connections to the area along Second Avenue and near 15th Street is making it happen.

A short distance from the new Mercer Medical School Columbus campus, a $14 million apartment complex is taking shape.

Almost 75 new units will be available for rent, the first ones coming online in early December. The bulk of them is in new apartment buildings with the others in three historic homes that were preserved as part of the project.

Did Mercer accelerate the project, or did it just validate it? That is the question to Columbus developer Ken Henson.

“I am hoping it will produce some medical students that want to move into these apartments,” Henson said. “We’ll see. You know you got the downtown magnet across the street now. That was announced before we did this. So, I think inevitably something would have happened on this block. We may have done it sooner than other people might have done it.”

It is in the heart of the city — near the TSYS campus, a short walk or bike ride from downtown and its restaurant scene.

But it is also a connection to the development to the west and north up Second Avenue.

“Now, we are getting rid of the blight that’s between City Mills, Mercer Medical, and the new Housing Authority. In this four-block area, we are getting rid of a good bit of it,” Henson said. “Especially, the part on Second Avenue. As you come into town, you don’t see the blight, this large vacant piece of vacant land. Now, we can make connecting City village into Uptown much, much better.”

The development is called 1516 High Uptown. There is a family reason for that.

“My grandmother’s house, the house my mother grew up in was here, 1516,” Henson said. “It got torn down in the mid-70s. You can do the math; this property has been vacant for over 45 years. My office was across the street. It got tired of looking at it. I looked at other people who had looked at trying to do something here and I finally came up with a plan that I hope will work. And we have taken this block and built these new apartments. We are hoping they will rent.”

And the apartments – one, two, and three bedrooms — will have a North Columbus feel, but a downtown convenience. The rent range will be about $800 per month on the low end … and $1,800 or a little more on the high end. They are leasing now. More information can be obtained by calling 706 330-2595.

“It has a similar look and feel to an apartment on the northside of town, other than the windows are more industrial and bigger,” Henson said. “… You have nine-foot ceilings, but the cabinets and finishes are similar to what you would see on the northside of town.”

It has been a project of the heart for Henson.

“This is sort of fun, exciting. And maybe because it was where my grandmother and mother grew up, it’s sentimental,” Henson said. “But I think this is part of a bigger picture of how we are going to connect uptown up into City Village and start bringing that area back. This area had to come back first. I think you could connect City Village to Uptown if you still had blight you are to cross to get to the two.”