Bowlin Roofing & Demolition began bringing down the two dilapidated houses at the corner of E Street and E. Center Street last week. The two-story houses have been on the city’s code enforcement radar for years due to issues such as high grass, trash around the buildings and vagrants living inside.
“The prior owner had an heir taking care of it, but she lived out of town and was doing it remotely,” said Melanie Adkins, code enforcement officer for the city. “The white building, vagrants were getting in it and it was obvious someone was staying there, trying to start a fire to stay warm. Trash was getting pretty bad and we asked them to board the windows up.”
Last year, the Eastern Eight Community Development Corporation purchased the two houses and now owns about an acre at the corner of E and Center. Another small white house on Center — adjacent to these two houses — was demolished more than a year ago and will tie into Eastern Eight’s plans for the entire property.
“We’ve got some really nice town house units going in on the property,” said Retha Patton, executive director of Eastern Eight, which is a nonprofit organization creating affordable housing solutions for the eight counties of Northeast Tennessee.
Its programs include homebuyer education, financial counseling, mortgage pre-approval, continuing homeowner education and foreclosure prevention and counseling.
For the better part of two years, Eastern Eight has worked to bring 12 units to the property. Patton said the town houses will be two-story and include four three-bedroom units and eight two-bedroom units, targeting very low income families, seniors and veterans.
The total cost of the project is $1.43 million, which includes $500,000 from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency and $930,000 in matching funds.
Patton said the goal is to start construction by June and finish the units by the end of the year.
“(Two years) is about the normal length of the project, sad to say. We have to get grants for the construction to keep our rent low, and it takes time to get the grants lined up,” Patton said.
Eastern Eight has invested more than $1 million in single family houses throughout the Kingsport area, most notably four houses in the Riverview neighborhood during the HOPE VI redevelopment project, financing the 31 houses built along Sherwood and Hiwassee and building six houses in the Gibson Mill redevelopment area.
The nonprofit also has a 72-lot subdivision off Gravely Road currently under development — the Harmony Ridge neighborhood — with 10 homes built and an estimated economic impact of more than $8 million.
Lynn Tully, development services director for the city, said she expects the residents and businesses in Highland to be quite pleased with the results of Eastern Eight’s work.
“It’s one of the things that’s been a long time coming,” Tully said of the two houses. “This will be a much better outcome, and I think the neighborhood is going to be happy about it.”