MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A project that’s been in the works for years, renovating the old Gayfer’s building into affordable housing in downtown Mobile was addressed in Mobile City Council Tuesday.

City Council discussing using 8 million of the American Rescue Plan funding for this project was the main concern. The use of these funds was first brought into question last summer. Multiple residents addressed council saying the proposed $8 million should be used elsewhere. Teresa Bettis with South Alabama Economic Roundtable, said, “This location would not benefit those who need it the most. Poor people who need the affordable housing do not live in downtown Mobile, so why do you want to put 8 million into a building where people who need it don’t reside there.”

The Gayfers building which sits just off Bienville square is the space in question. The proposed plan would create 95 workforce units with an income cap meaning those who make about a certain amount wouldn’t qualify to live there. That would include 75 units income capped at 60 percent of the area median income (or $35,000 for a family of four) and another 19 that would only be available to residents making less than 50 percent of the area median income (or $29,200 for a family of four). The bottom level, set aside for commercial use.

Mayor Stimpson said there was no other shovel ready projects addressing affordable housing in the city, with a developer to back it. “You have to have a developer that’s willing to spend the money in those areas in order to build a project and if you don’t have a developer that wants to do that you don’t have a project.” It also fits into multiple other categories needed for ARP funding.

That nonprofit developer, backing this, Gulf Coast Housing Partnership, is ready to fill that financial gap left over after the 8 million is potentially spent.

As a non-profit housing and community development firm, GCHP has done dozens of similar projects spanning in multiple states. The firm purchased the Gayfer’s building several years ago with the intent of developing it into affordable housing units, but the age and character of the building made it a particularly expensive endeavor.

The total cost is estimated at somewhere around $32 million. Even with state and federal tax credits, there was a gap in funding preventing GCHP from making this project viable. Using this allocation from Mobile’s ARP funding would help fill that gap and move the project forward.

The goal though, is simple to make it affordable for people who work downtown to also live there. “The people that are working in our bars and restaurants and some of our downtown business, just like everyone else have to have transportation costs.” said Mayor Stimpson “So if you can live where you are going to work you are definitely going to save some money and all of these units are going to be controlled by some form of affordable housing.”

The decision to allowing for this funding wasn’t passed today, but pushed off for another two weeks to allow for more discussion and clarification for residents with concerns.