If the deal goes through, faith-based nonprofit National Church Residences (NCR) will operate the building which will undergo a name change.
ATLANTA — Residents living at Buckhead’s Cathedral Towers off Peachtree Road are worried about the future of their quality of life and their security as the 45-year-old facility is possibly being taken over by a new operator.
Cathedral Towers sits behind The Cathedral of St. Philip in an area known as “Jesus Junction” near the intersection of Peachtree Road and East/West Wesley Road. The church has operated the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) facility since it was built in the 1970s.
The church announced after an extensive search and vetting process, the Cathedral Towers Board of Directors and the Cathedral Chapter chose National Church Residences (NCR) as its partner– who will take over operating the facility.
The church sent the following statement to 11Alive:
National Church Residences outperforms industry benchmarks and is designated by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs consistently as a “high performer.” National Church Residences is among the select few CORES certified organizations in Georgia. This certification acknowledges their robust commitment, capacity, and competency in offering resident services coordination in affordable rental housing.
While the church said they’re excited about the possibility of his new partnership, residents who call Cathedral Towers aren’t on board.
“We have no concern being under new management if it’s the right management,” resident Denise Smith explained.
Smith, who has lived at Cathedral Towers for the past two years along with her husband, said they love the quality of life the facility offers them and the more than 200 residents.
“All of us are grateful for Cathedral Towers and the life it gives us, and the security it gives us,” Smith said.
“I’ve got more energy and I’m more outgoing than I have ever been before living anywhere,” she added.
Smith along with Ed Modzeleski, who has lived at Cathedral Towers for six years, and Ed Murray, who has called the place home for 10 years, are part of the resident association against the church entering into a long-term lease with National Church Residences.
They said none of the residents knew a thing about it– until one day they were all called to a meeting over the summer.
“They pulled us up on the hill and said, ‘These are the people who are going to be your bosses now.’ And we went, ‘What?” Murray explained.
The group said it’s not so much about a new operator but more about this specific one.
“It is the change that we see given our research is extremely negative,” Modzeleski said.
NCR sent 11Alive a packet of questions they said were raised by residents with answers they provided in writing. When it came to the negative online reviews like Modzeleski mentioned, NCR responded:
National Church Residences, a faith-based nonprofit, holds national recognition as a senior housing community leader. With an average HUD Real Estate Assessment Center inspection score of 93, we consistently outperform. To put this in perspective, Cathedral Towers’ most recent inspection score was 84. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs consistently designates us as a “high performer,” and CEL & Associates lauds us as “best in the industry” for exceptional service quality. Our properties also earn “Communities of Quality” recognition from The National Affordable Housing Management Association. Locally, our managers and service coordinators have been commended by past and present Atlanta mayors for their dedicated service.
National Church Residences is among the select few CORES certified organizations in Georgia. This certification acknowledges our robust commitment, capacity, and competency in offering resident services coordination in affordable rental housing. Our leadership actively participates in organizations such as SAHF, LeadingAge, National Affordable Housing Trust, National Affordable Housing Management Association, the Women’s Affordable Housing Network, and more.
The residents said they’re also worried about losing the staff they said have become like family and also their safety.
“Yes, I hear the church and they’ve said, ‘Oh now, we’ll keep security but for how long?'” Modzeleski questioned.
He also brought up if their staff will be rehired.
“What are they going to be replaced with, the same quality, the same people who have 20 years of experience working with the elderly,” Modzeleski said.
NCR said it will use its best practices to make staffing decisions.
“Staff who are part of an acquisition will be considered first for any open position at the acquired property. While it is not always possible to maintain all staff during acquisitions, it is our goal to maintain as many qualified individuals that fit within our staffing strategy,” NCR said in a statement. “National Church Residences is committed to partnering with The Cathedral of St. Philip to deliver resident services to the property.”
As far as security is concerned, NCR said with the support of the Cathedral of St. Phillip, it plans to use a third-party security service at the property “consistent with how the property operates today.”
The church and NCR also pointed out the company plans to renovate the building, which the residents said isn’t needed because each unit is renovated when a new resident moves in.
They call it a “dog and pony show,” stating collectively, “They’re making it look good up front.”
Another big change will be the name. If NCR takes over, they confirm the name of the building will change.
As for why the church decided to enter into this partnership which still isn’t final, they gave two reasons in a statement:
First, National Church Residences has committed to a significant renovation of the forty-five-year-old facility, including a renovation of each resident’s apartment. The renovation will be financed through the Federal Government’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program. This renovation will ensure that the Towers continues to provide high quality low-income housing in Buckhead for its current residents and for generations to come.
Second, because National Church Residences will receive significant tax credits as part of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, the Cathedral of St. Philip will receive a significant payment from National Church Residences which will allow the Cathedral to expand its mission to low-income housing for the elderly in Atlanta. The proceeds from the transaction will go into a special fund dedicated to improving access to and the affordability of housing and the provision of support services for low-income seniors.
The fund will also continue to support the Cathedral’s mission of providing services to residents of the Towers. Indeed, the Cathedral expects to have a continuing active relationship with the Towers as part of its partnership with National Church Residences.
The residents said they want the church to reconsider the partnership, start over and let the residents be a part of the conversation in picking a company to take over.
Smith, Modzeleski and Murray said they won’t give up the fight. They said they’ve started a petition and already have a vast majority of residents who have signed stating they don’t want NCR to take over.
All three said they’re just worried the Cathedral Tower they fell in love with will no longer be the same under the watch of NCR.