Wheat Street Senior Towers Celebrates A Grand Reopening Marking Its 47th Anniversary 

By Henrietta Spearman
In 1972, Wheat Street Baptist Church made history when it opened the nation’s first federally funded, faith based urban housing initiative for seniors. These funds were made possible by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Wheat Street Towers recently celebrated its 47th anniversary with a grand reopening ribbon cutting ceremony on May 21st showcasing the completion of a $26.6 million dollar renovation.

The 14 story fully renovated landmark now resembles a Park Avenue style highrise complete with a state of the art 24-hour electronic security entry access, energy efficient windows, and state of the art HVAC systems. The exterior of the building now features a bold silver address marquee prominently displayed over the main entrance and a vintage 1940s electric signage on the Auburn Ave side of the building.  Other updated amenities include a fitness center, a computer lab, all new appliances in each unit including new dishwashers, several laundry room facilities as well as a spacious residential activities and meeting spaces. The Towers’208 units opened fully occupied.

“It is good  to see that the nation’s first federally funded housing complex for seniors has been renovated, refreshed and is ready to continue serving our community,” said Rep. John Lewis.  “During its 150 year history of leadership, Wheat Street Baptist Church has often been ahead of its time.  While the rest of the nation is gentrifying and threatening the housing security of millions of Americans, this pillar of the Atlanta community has recommitted to the work of affordable housing.

The Wheat Street Baptist Church (WSBC) campus is centrally located within a 1.5 mile stretch of the MLK Historic District, with multiple building listed on the National Historic Register or contributing to the Historic District. WSBC earned high praises among the National Historic Trust assessment team, garnering recognition specifically for civic leadership role in during the city’s turbulent Civil Rights Movement, business acumen, and finally the distinctive Gothic Revival architectural of the church and the Christian Educational Building.

Board members of the Wheat Street Charitable Foundation: Kevin Jackson, Brenda Hunter, Cynthia Jackson, Rhonda Brown Henley, AlBerta King, Mary Glenn, Velena Henderson, JUdy McNeil, Eric W. Borders, Jimmy Hodges, and Dr. Ralph Basui Watkins, Senior Pastor Wheat Street Baptist Church
“This effort was a great opportunity for Wheat Street Charitable Foundation to renew our commitment to high quality, affordable senior housing in the Sweet Auburn district” said Eric W. Borders, President of the Wheat Street Charitable Foundation. “We have additional plans to renew the entire Wheat Street campus, with our next Foundation project being a $5.2 million dollar renovation of our Educational Building and American Legion Building which is scheduled to begin this summer and to be completed in June 2020. These next building renovations will provide office, retail, and food service space to allow the Foundation to partner with like-minded organizations scaling our service and community impact programs to meet our education, empowerment, and entrepreneurial objectives,” Borders added.

Eric Borders is the grandson of the late Pastor, Rev., Dr. William Holmes Borders, Sr. As President of Wheat Street Charitable Foundation (WSCF), Mr. Borders serves as the lead for Foundation property development, management, and oversight activities. It was under Dr. Borders’50+ years pastorate that Wheat Street amassed it real estate holdings.  The WSCF’s initial property portfolio consisted of approximately 20+ acres, containing the Wheat Street Baptist Church, the Educational building, The Parsonage, Wheat Street Towers, the former Wheat Street Garden Apartments, as well as two retail plazas.

Congressman Lewis added, “by recommitting to this mission, Wheat Street confirms the power of providing for those who have served our society well into their senior years.  It is right, it is fair, and it is humane.  I am proud to see this facility reopen to the public and look forward to the important work the church and its charitable foundation will continue to contribute to the Atlanta community.”

Henrietta Spearman is a former Columnist, Reporter and Photographer for the Atlanta Business Chronicle and The AJC respectively.

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