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Columbia Housing, Allen University partner for sports, academic trade

Agreement could eventually lead to affordable housing solutions for university students and faculty

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia Housing Authority (CHA) and Allen University will formally announce plans on Tuesday that the two entities will enter a partnership agreement that might eventually lead to providing housing for students and faculty in new mixed-use housing projects.

What starting out as a smaller agreement will soon expand to impact a greater section of our community.

From now through November, CHA officials say they're lending a piece of property at The Oaks at St. Anna's to Allen University to be used as a practice field for the university's football team. In exchange, the university will offer a resident of Columbia Housing a full academic scholarship.

Construction at The Oaks at St. Anna's, on the former Gonzales Garden site on Forest Drive, is scheduled to begin in January 2022 and will eventually include 190 two- and three-bedroom townhomes for families and 95 senior apartments.

Credit: CHA
The Oaks at St. Anna's will replace Gonzales Gardens housing along Forest Drive in Columbia, SC.

Dr. Ernest McNealey, president of Allen University, says the school is also eyeing new developments from CHA -- specifically the mixed-use housing that is slated to replace Allen Benedict Court.

That property -- bounded by Harden, Read, Oak, and Laurel streets, near the Allen University and Benedict College campuses -- is slated for demolition later this year in advance of redevelopment.

"Not all (of the development) will be for low-income people, and we have staff and faculty that travel great distances -- 80, 90 miles one way -- and we're looking for opportunities to have them closer to campus," said McNealey.

"As these projects unfold, I think it will be a good opportunity."

CHA officials said in a development committee meeting on July 8 that they are considering partnering with other schools -- including Benedict College -- as well.

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