The redevelopment of a nine-story eyesore into a more purposeful use is set to continue investment aimed at making downtown East Point more walkable, vibrant, and inclusive.

Construction has begun to turn the former Nelms House at 1600 Connally Drive into an 88-unit building offering exclusively affordable housing, according to UnitedHealth Group, which has partnered with national affordable housing agencies to contribute more than $100 million recently to projects dotted around the U.S.

The building is located just north of East Point’s historic, transit-connected downtown, across Main Street (and MARTA rail lines) from Tri-Cities High School. Downtown Atlanta is seven miles away by car.

The project's 1600 Connally Drive location in East Point, between Atlanta's downtown and airport. Google Maps

A UnitedHealth spokesperson tells Urbanize Atlanta the East Point project, once renovated, will provide 72 one-bedroom and 16 two-bedroom units for older adults and families earning 60 percent or less of the area’s median income. 

The building—formerly used as senior housing and the Housing Authority of East Point’s offices—has been vacant for more than a decade. Its redevelopment into affordable housing is scheduled to be complete in March, according to UnitedHealth.

The nine-story property's condition in 2021, prior to renovations. Google Maps

East Point Housing Authority officials have said the revived building will be called Aya Tower, and that the bulk of construction will be funded with state tax credits and bonds. Only the exterior bones of the building are expected to remain.  

UnitedHealth Group said the recent investment in East Point, alongside similar projects in North Carolina and Oregon, brings the company’s total investments in affordable housing to almost $800 million. That’s helping to establish nearly 19,000 homes for people struggling with housing insecurity.

About two blocks from the tower conversion site, East Point officials unveiled plans in December for a 9-acre, mixed-use project called The Commons. East Point Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham called that $111-million proposal a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to inject “equitable development” into the heart of downtown.

The Commons joins another potentially transformative investment brewing near East Point’s downtown and MARTA hub.

Directly across the MARTA tracks, on a site linked to downtown via the city’s pedestrian bridge, a Kairos Development Corporation venture called East Atlanta Exchange envisions 21 acres of apartments, greenspaces, and retail meshed with landmark buildings.

East Point's $111M 'The Commons' aims to enliven historic downtown (Urbanize Atlanta)