Chattanooga City Council took steps Tuesday to purchase the Jaycee Towers II for one dollar from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and seek an Up Front Grant of $2.49 million from HUD for renovation of the 18-story apartment complex for low-income elderly.
The council approved resolutions authorizing the purchase contingent on the HUD grant being approved. Officials indicated they were confident the city would receive the grant.
The project will be owned by the city and will be jointly developed by Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE) and the newly formed Urban Development Partners The project will include updating the 68 one-bedroom units and consolidating 138 efficiency units to one-bedroom units making a final total of 136 one-bedroom units.
None of the current residents will be displaced, said officials, since very few of the efficiency units requiring substantial renovation are occupied and work that must be done on the nearly 100-percent-occupied one-bedroom units can probably be done in a day or so. Rent is expected to remain unchanged for residents and the complex will be renamed the Dogwood Apartments.
At the beginning of the meeting, Highland Park was honored for having received the national Neighborhood of the Year Award in the social revitalization category
Kenardo K. Curry, administrator of the city’s Neighborhood Services Department, said only one such award is given and “we’re number one … across the nation.” A group of Highland Park Neighborhood Association members were present at the council meeting and were recognized for having traveled to Pittsburgh to receive the national award. They were Uneva Shaw, association president, Marlene Brown, member of the board, and Officer Victor Woughter with the Chattanooga Police.
Mr. Curry said the nationwide honor showcases how a community can rise for a neighborhood where the residents all have 911 programmed into their phones for speed dialing to an area where both daylight and evening walks through the neighborhood are common along with family activities in the park.
The council also recognized the upcoming Riverbend Festival and Riverbend Executive Director Chip Chapman presented the 20th anniversary poster to the city, noting that studies have indicated the festival’s $14.8 million impact on the community. He said Dateline NBC will be filming here Wednesday along with filming for a Travis Tritt video while he performs Wednesday night.
In a discussion of the Towers project in a committee meeting prior to the council meeting, Rayburn Traughber, senior executive with the city, said after a review of the sales contract projections, “we feel good about this.” He said Morrison Springs Apartments, owned by the city and managed by CNE, is worth $100,000 a year to the city and “we think this will be worth more.”
Reggie Ruff, a principal along with Chris Hodges in Urban Development Partners, said the renovated one-bedroom apartments will bring in to the city a monthly $511 per apartment per month. Occupants of efficiency apartments will move up to one-bedroom units without any increase in rent. The rent includes utilities.
The council was assured that the apartments would remain low-income housing for the elderly.
Jaycee Towers II was originally constructed in 1973 and currently offers a total of 204 units, efficiency and one-bedroom, for low-income elderly residents. It was developed in conjunction with its twin tower and jointly managed until July 2000 when the FHA mortgage for Jaycee Towers II was assigned to HUD and scheduled for foreclosure.
Under HUD’s disposition program, the property was offered to the city under its statutory right of first refusal and HUD has approved the city’s preliminary offer to purchase the Towers for $1, conditioned on approval of the Up Front Grant of $2,491,000, representing about half the total development cost.
Arrangements already are in place for a $2.6 million conventional bank loan. A $500,000 grant request has been submitted to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta which could significantly reduce the required loan.
Occupancy of the efficiency apartments, two-thirds of the units in Towers II, has remained about 20 to 30 percent while occupancy of one-bedroom units has been near 100 percent in recent years. The small size of efficiency units, 360 square feet, severely limits market appeal, officials said.
A substantial number of the renovated units will be made accessible and adaptable for residents with physical, visual or hearing disabilities. The building currently offers no handicapped accommodations although nearly 40 percent of the current residents have some sort of physical disability.
Unit renovations will include replacement of all floor coverings, through-wall air conditioning systems, appliances and cabinets and appropriate upgrade or replacement of the building’s electrical, plumbing, mechanical and life safety systems.
Future occupancy at the project will be limited to elderly households in which all members are age 55 and older. Also, 95 percent of the households must be income qualified below 80 percent of area median and five percent may be occupied by households with incomes up to 115 percent of median The median income is the middle, half earning more and half less.
According to Mr. Ruff, the renovated project will provide a very attractive housing opportunity for low-income elderly residents of Chattanooga and will also offer an enhanced package of social services and programs tailored to the needs of its residents.