Cathedral Towers, an affordable senior living facility in Buckhead, is owned by the Cathedral of St. Philip. (Cathedral of St. Philip)

Residents of Cathedral Towers in Buckhead are organizing against a plan to put a national agency in charge of managing their building. They fear the move would lead to cutbacks on security and personnel and jeopardize their quality of life.

The Cathedral Tower Residents Association was formed to voice its opposition to Ohio-based National Church Residences (NCR) taking over management of the 45-year-old affordable senior housing community owned by the Cathedral of St. Philip.

The association includes 150 of the 191 residents, said Bruce M. Gregory, 78, chair of the group and a seven-year resident of Cathedral Towers. Dozens of association members rallied in front of the building on Peachtree Road on Oct. 17 to spread the word they are unhappy with the church’s decision to select NCR to manage the property.

“[NCR’s] management model is different from what we have now,” Gregory told Rough Draft in an interview before the rally. “They don’t have as many staff members, they don’t require people to have as much training … they feel security doesn’t need to be quite as strong as we have now.”

Gregory said residents were shocked when they learned this summer the church wanted to bring in NCR to operate Cathedral Towers. They were disappointed the church did not seek their input in planning the facility’s future. Changing the name of the community to Parish Grove has also upset residents.

“Our world was turned upside down,” Gregory said. “It’s like a divorce.”

Bruce Gregory, chair of the Cathedral Towers Residents Association. (Photo via Facebook)

“We can no longer sit back and take what comes,” he said. “We must take action to avoid the ‘NCR effect’ taking over our building and ruining the wonderful accomplishments of the past 45 years.”  

Representatives from the church and NCR said they are aware of residents concerns and are working together to answer their questions, including posting Q&As online.

Despite the protests, the Cathedral of St. Philip does not plan to back out of its deal with NCR. The agreement is expected to be finalized early next year.

NCR seeks federal, state and city tax dollars to renovate apartments

The Cathedral of St. Philip built Cathedral Towers in the 1970s with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding dedicated to creating more affordable housing with supportive services for the elderly.

The church is not selling Cathedral Towers to NCR. Instead, NCR is agreeing to lease the HUD-subsidized apartment building for 99 years and “will bring expertise and experience to the operation of the Cathedral Towers that the facility does not currently enjoy,” according to the Cathedral of St. Philip.

As part of the lease agreement, NCR is committing to acquiring federal and state tax dollars for low-income housing to pay for needed repairs and renovations of Cathedral Towers’ 195 apartments.

“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,” the church said in a July 16 announcement of the partnership deal.

NCR is also seeking a $41 million tax-exempt loan and $1.5 million in housing opportunity bond financing from Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development agency, to pay for the rehabilitation of the apartments.

An Invest Atlanta document shows NCR would pay nearly $52 million for acquisition to the Cathedral of St. Philip as part of the more than $85 million development budget.

The church did not reveal how much it would receive from NCR to lease Cathedral Towers. In its July announcement, the church said it would “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,” according to the church. No specific plans for what the services would entail have been decided yet.

The fund will also continue to support the Cathedral’s mission of providing services to residents of the Towers, including supplementing existing staff’s salary for up to a year for those who decide to stay on after the transition, the church said.

“Indeed, the Cathedral expects to have a continuing active relationship with the Towers as part of its partnership with National Church Residences,” according to a statement from the church.

Beverly Burks is NCR’s regional director of Philanthropy and Public Relations and is based out of the nonprofit organization’s Atlanta office. She said NCR has 60 years of experience owning and operating market-rate and affordable senior living facilities.

“In the Georgia area, we provide primarily affordable housing and so we have taken over several buildings from other organizations,” Burks said.

“And in the midst of all of that we have been able to do multiple repairs to those buildings,” she said. “One of the things that we’re looking to do for the residents of the Cathedral Towers is to provide updates to that building.”

She said NCR is committed to ensuring residents have a good quality of life as the operator of their homes.

“Aging is a privilege, and we want to have that honor of managing that building as they continue to age in place,” she said.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.