KINGSPORT — Work to transform one of the more problematic areas of town into a more desirable neighborhood to live began this week with the demolition of 29 houses along the Sherwood/Hiwassee area of town.
Earlier this year, the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority purchased 29 properties in this area of town to be redeveloped in connection with the HOPE VI project. Twenty-two of the properties were owned by former Alderman Hoyt Denton.
The HOPE VI project began in Kingsport when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the KHRA an $11.9 million HOPE VI Revitalization Grant last October. The money will be used to help build new mixed-income housing units in the city.
Ninety-two public housing units at Riverview Apartments will be replaced with 32 homes (16 single-family houses and eight duplex units). Six other houses will also be built on scattered sites in the Riverview area.
Another phase, which began this week, calls for the construction of 24 affordable home ownership units in the Sherwood/Hiwassee area. Two excavators were on site Wednesday morning, knocking down walls and roofs, with HOPE VI and city officials to officially kick off the project.
Doris Ladd, director of the HOPE VI project, said demolition is scheduled for 45 days but would likely be complete soon. Ladd said crews are knocking down houses first, then will go back and dig up the foundations once the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation signs off on the work.
Ladd said the city would be going out to bid on the homes in the Sherwood/Hiwassee area on Oct. 1 and receive bids until Oct. 25, with work beginning by the end of November.
“These houses will be for purchase for medium- and low-income households and those who qualify for first-time home ownership — people who have not had a home in their name in the last three years,” Ladd said, adding that Riverview residents would have first shot at these homes.
Maria Catron, the community supportive services coordinator for HOPE VI, said around 90 families have expressed an interest in home ownership. Catron said HOPE VI officials are not concerned that the number of families expressing an interest in home ownership exceeds the number of homes to be available under the project.
“We think there’s going to be good home ownership opportunities throughout the city of Kingsport,” Catron said. “Even if they’re not able to all relocate within the Riverview community, we think there’s a good opportunity for them to be home owners within the city.”
When the new homes are built, they will be located in and around homes that have stood for decades, thus giving the neighborhood a mixed appearance.
Ladd said the city believes this will be an incentive for property owners to either upgrade their homes or for others to come in and do work similar to what HOPE VI officials are trying to do.
Mayor Dennis Phillips, who helped knock down a portion of one of the houses on Wednesday, agreed with Ladd.
“Remodeling and upgrading is a constant, ongoing situation, and when you build new it certainly makes the older look bad. Hopefully it will inspire neighborhoods to do a little extra they’re able to do to bring their property up to standards in a lot of cases,” Phillips said. “I think this is a great day in Kingsport’s future. ... I think we will be a better city and better community when this project is completed.”