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Housing affordability champion Noel Khalil passes away at 70


Developer Noel Khalil, who was considered by most as a champion for affordable housing in metro Atlanta, has died at the age of 70. The Atlanta businessman, who led affordable housing in metro Atlanta and across the Southeast, died Oct. 25 after a four-year battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

A service, held Nov. 4 at St. Philip A.M.E. Church on Candler Road, attracted top Atlanta political and business leaders and entertainers.” For generations to come there will be places of dignity, places that are safe, places that are whole, places full of love because Noel loved us so very much,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms during a eulogy.

In 1991, Khalil formed Columbia Residential, a company that redeveloped public housing projects in Georgia, Florida, Texas,and Louisiana, turning them into apartment communities with upscale features such as state-of-the-art recreation facilities, internet cafes and units Bottoms described as “beautiful clean places.” 

Khalil’s company developed over 10,000 apartment units throughout metro Atlanta. Under his leadership, many areas of Atlanta such as Mechanicsville, West Highlands, and Edgewood, along with East Lake, the former location of one of the city’s most notorious housing projects, East Lake Meadows, have reaped the benefit from Columbia Residential communities. Khalil’s highest profile development, Columbia Parc, built in New Orleans following the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina, drew the attention of President Barack Obama, who visited the community in 2010 and praised it as a model for quality affordable housing. In 2020, Khalil was inducted into the Affordable Housing Hall of Fame.

Khalil leaves behind a legacy of benefiting thousands of Atlanta residents that might not otherwise continue to afford to live in one of the fastest growing and most expensive real estate markets in the country. His company employs 350 people and manages 50 properties. They currently have eight developments under construction.

Prior to starting his own company, Kahlil once worked with legendary developer Herman Russell at H.J. Russell & Co.

Atlanta rapper and political activist Killer Mike called Khalil a “hero” who transformed the “lives of his children, the life of his community, the lives of his business partners. He brought Black and White people in coalitions together,” he said. “He made housing decent and respectable.” 

In a statement following the passing, Jim Grauley, Columbia Residential and Columbia Ventures president and CEO said of Khalil, “His vision and persona were the driving force behind the creation of Columbia Residential and Columbia Ventures and will continue to be our guide and inspiration for carrying the work of our companies forward.”

Khalil, who was from the Bronx in New York, was the son of Jamaican immigrants: a truck driving father with a 6th-grade education and a mother who worked two jobs to put her children through college.

Khalil is survived by three sons, two daughters and extended family members.


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