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Ground broken on affordable housing in Pembroke
Sawmill Landing Ground Break 2
Officials break ground on Sawmill Landing, an affordable-housing development, in Pembroke on Thursday, May 7. - photo by Jeff Whitte

Before officials broke ground last week on Pembroke’s $9.5 million Sawmill Landing project, Mayor Mary Warnell called the 60-unit development off Surrency Street another sign the city is ready for business.

“We can take care of business, and we are a community of opportunity,” Warnell said. “And Sawmill Landing is the first of many opportunities arising for the city of Pembroke.”

Shortly afterward, 16 members of the city’s ceremonial groundbreaking designation donned hardhats and flipped dirt with gold-painted shovels as bulldozers worked in the background to clear ground for the project, which is expected to add 60 “workforce housing” rental units to Pembroke’s list of available housing.

Among those marking the occasion May 7 was developer Bill Gross of W.H. Gross, the company building the mix of townhouses and apartments after Pembroke was chosen as one of five cities in Georgia to be awarded federal tax credits through the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing.

Sawmill Landing was a long time coming, Gross said.

“This is a story that didn’t start last year, or even two or three years ago,” he said. “It started many years ago.”

It also took a lot of teamwork and hard work, he said.

“These are very competitive, and it’s a testament to a lot of hard work by a lot of people,” Gross said, as he addressed those who attended the groundbreaking.

“The tax-credit program is unique in the way that Congress and the state of Georgia can help meet housing needs specifically for folks that are hardworking and trying to better themselves,” Gross said. “The No. 1 thing to have stable communities is to have stable housing. That’s the No. 1 part of any community trying to grow.”

Pembroke City Councilwoman Tiffany Walraven led the effort from the start and has frequently called affordable housing for workers one of the city’s most pressing needs. Walraven said Pembroke was honored to have been chosen.

“This will be an asset to families and individuals who work in and near North Bryan County,” she said.

And with efforts to lure a large manufacturer to the 1,900-acre “megasite” just a few miles from the city, there was a sense that Warnell was talking about more than just the groundbreaking as she spoke of the city. This was when expectations were high that Volvo was going to announce it would locate in Black Creek — hopes that were dashed when it announced it chose South Carolina instead.

Even so, regional officials still hope to locate a manufacturer or a series of industries in the megasite.

“This is the first of many great things to happen in our city,” she said, noting she’s often heard Pembroke referred to as “Little Five Points.”
“We’re all familiar with five points in Atlanta, and Athens also has five points. Pembroke does, too,” Warnell said. “We have the intersection of 280 East and West, 119 North and South, and 67. And our five points transforms into a crossroads to opportunity.”

She didn’t stop there.

“We also have four exits from I-16 that lead into the city of Pembroke, and one on 95. We’re blessed to have so many routes coming into the city,” Warnell said. “We’re in a strategic location with the I-16 and I-95 corridors, and that provides a nonstop commute to Savannah, to Statesboro, to the ports, to Fort Stewart. And we’re also only a 3½-hour nonstop commute to Atlanta. We can take care of business.”

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