Up To $35 Million In Bonds To Be Issued For Start Of Remake Of College Hill Courts

  • Monday, February 19, 2024
  • Hannah Campbell

At its meeting Monday, the Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board unanimously passed a resolution of intent to issue up to $35 million in bonds to rebuild the College Hill Courts public housing units in the Westside neighborhood.

The bonds will fund One Westside Phase 1B to be built at 501 West 12th Street.

“We’ve received great support for this from the community,” said Jim Grauley, chief executive officer of developer Columbia Residential.

Chattanooga Housing Authority began in March 2020 to survey residents, twice, and knit together a master plan for the Westside neighborhood, a plan now endorsed by Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly and City Council Chairwoman Raquetta Dotley of District 7, it was stated. Residents told CHA their desires for access to healthcare, education, jobs, recreation, shopping and other categories.

“The responses really drove the plan,” CHA Executive Director Betsy McCright told the board.

The new development will replace 166 College Hill Courts units. The total 230 mixed-income units will include low- and moderate-income units and market-rate units.

Every current public housing resident has a guaranteed right of return, said CHA legal counsel Joe Kelly, and the “build first strategy” means that residents will be moved straight from the old building to the new building without being displaced, he said.

“It will deconcentrate poverty,” Mr. Kelly said, a desire of the residents revealed in the CHA surveys.

Mr. Kelly said the development will attract people who could live anywhere in the city.

“Everybody’s got an interest,” he said.

“I haven’t seen that many that have that much market rate in there at all,” said board Chairman Hicks Armor.

The board’s agenda item doubles as a Tax Equity and Financial Responsibility Act hearing, or TERFA hearing, a required step in Columbia Residential’s application for round one of bond allocation from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency.

The city and county designated a 300-acre tax increment financing district (TIF) encompassing the Westside community and The Bend in fall 2023. The city donated land for the new public housing units to Chattanooga Housing Authority.

“We’re on a very fast track,” Mr. Gauley said.

All told, CHA’s Westside Evolves project will replace 629 housing units in its Westside public housing buildings, and it will build 1,783 new units divided into mixed-income tiers. Sixty-five percent are designated affordable, including public housing, and 35 percent are designated market rate.

The design provides high-density housing that city officials have said they want, Mr. Gauley said.

“As you know, construction costs have skyrocketed, interest rates have gone up.” said Mr. Gauley.

To fill financing gaps in the mixed-income composition, Columbia has established twinning status to set up more tax credit equity, he said. The developer also is working toward a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) status that will be a pioneer in the state, he said, designed for large projects with high public purpose.

“It’s really a big need,” Mr. Gauley said.

The bond is set to close in December, he said. Construction will begin in January 2025 and take 18 to 20 months. Residents should move into their new homes the third quarter of 2026, he said.

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