Members of the Bristol, Va., SWAT team simulate a stand-off situation at the empty Riverview Apartments complex earlier this week. With the apartments empty and slated for demolition beginning Saturday, area police and fire departments have been using the complex for training exercises. Erica Yoon photo.
KINGSPORT — After housing Model City residents for more than 60 years, Riverview Apartments is being demolished on Saturday in order to make way for a multimillion-dollar redevelopment project within the South Central community.
The apartments — one of Kingsport’s public housing complexes — are coming down in connection with the city’s HOPE VI project. In October 2006, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority an $11.9 million HOPE VI Revitalization Grant.
The money will go toward building new public housing homes in the Riverview community and single-family houses in the Sherwood/Hiwassee area of town. Total cost of the project is expected to exceed $30 million.
Kingsport plans to replace Riverview Apartments 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.
Demolition work will begin at noon on Saturday with the contractors having up to 120 days to complete the work. New home construction in the Riverview community will begin in early 2009.
Following the demolition, New Vision Youth, Fresh Start/HOPE VI, Douglass Alumni Choir, South Central and the Kingsport Parks and Recreation Department will hold a community event featuring refreshments and a short program.
The program, called “I’ll Huff and Puff and I’ll Blow your House Down,” will be presented by New Vision Youth and the Douglass High School Alumni Choir.
There will be refreshments and fellowship in the V.O. Dobbins Gym for what organizers are calling “Tears & Laughter.”
Several former residents were recently interviewed about growing up in Riverview and how they would feel about the demolition of their onetime homes. All of them agreed it would be a bittersweet time, with some crying and a lot of good memories.
The last of the residents were relocated from the apartments within the past week. Since the relocations began last year, the Kingsport Police Department has performed several SWAT exercises in the area, and the Kingsport Fire Department has conducted training at the apartment complex.
“(SWAT) does building entry and searches. There’s a lot to that. There are right ways to do it and wrong ways, and that complex and those apartments give the team a variety of things to work on,” Deputy Police Chief David Quillin said. “This gives them new places to work on because many times the apartments over there are the same as apartments in Cloud or wherever.
“They can take that knowledge they gain from training over there to other areas of town when they’re on a real call or a real incident.”
Barry Brickey, KFD public education officer, said firefighters have conducted ventilation and structure training, practicing the cutting of concrete and block walls. No fires have been set during the training exercises, Brickey said.
“It’s been hands-on training and close to a regular scenario,” Brickey said.
The second phase of the HOPE VI project calls for the construction of 24 affordable home ownership units in the Sherwood/Hiwassee area. In September, the city demolished 29 homes along the two streets where the new houses will be built.
A groundbreaking for this phase of the project is scheduled for Feb. 12, with all of the houses expected to be built by September.