COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — The Ralston Tower was closed and sold two years ago because the living conditions inside the low-income housing building were so deplorable.
Now, an Atlanta developer is breathing new life into the downtown Columbus apartment building.
Well, it’s a new day.
The windows are no longer boarded up and the lights are finally back on at the Ralston.
Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson has recently seen those lights at night.
“Wow,” Henderson said. “The Ralston was one of those things I inherited, and you just had to do something about.”
Gregory Jones is the Chief Investment Officer for Infinity Capital Partners, which purchased the bonds that led to its ownership.
“It’s been a long two years trying to get it right,” Jones said.
The mayor, with the help of Democratic Congressman Sanford Bishop and Republican Drew Ferguson, got it closed by keeping the pressure on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
To appreciate what it looks like, you need to know what it looked like a couple of years ago when the final residents were moved out.
The previous owners, New Jersey-based PF Holdings, are gone. Infinity Capital Partners of Atlanta now owns the 288-unit, 10-story high-rise.
“We are going to open on Aug. 15th,” Jones told WRBL in an exclusive interview. “We are going to open the first three floors and all common areas on Aug. 15th. That is about 80 units. We are currently pre-leased for 35 of those 80 units.”
Work will continue on the remaining seven floors with it scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
The Ralston will remain projected-based HUD Section 8 housing on the first eight floors. Those rooms will be for the disabled and the elderly, 62 and over. The top two floors will be set aside for those who are not elderly or disabled.
“Every owner has the ability to tweak the tenant-selection plan,” Jones said. “And I can’t speak about who was qualified under the prior ownership. But I can tell you with the elderly properties we own around the country, we have a pretty strict policy on the types of applicants we will accept.”
Henderson sees it this way.
“Well, I am pleased that it’s going to fill a gap that currently exists,” the mayor said. “The city didn’t really have a whole lot to do with the use of it once it was turned over to the folks who bought the bonds, we were kind of out of it.”
This was going to be a $10 million project when Infinity started.
Jones describes what his company found in the bluntest of terms.
“It was a disaster,” he said. “It was worse when you started peeling back the walls than what we expected. Our budget, which we discussed back two years ago, was $10 million. We ended up spending $15 million.”
The Ralston originally opened in 1914 as a 100-room upscale hotel.