The Chattanooga City Council on Tuesday night adopted the Westside Evolves Plan, which provides a 10-year strategy for change in the city’s oldest public housing community. The plan was developed over a two-year period with more than 82 percent of the area’s 4,500 residents participating in the process.
“Thanks to deep collaboration between the community, the Chattanooga Housing Authority, the City, and other stakeholders, we now have an accountable and transparent plan to revitalize our beloved Westside, opening up opportunity and quality affordable housing that will uplift the community for years to come,” said Councilwoman Raquetta Dotley, whose district includes the Westside neighborhood.
In further support of the plan, City Council also voted to approve an interlocal agreement that will allow the City to provide $1 million from its affordable housing fund to support the renovation of the historic James A. Henry school. The school will serve as the Westside’s new neighborhood hub, anchored by a 100-seat Head Start facility. The funding is in addition to the $2 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds the City already invested in the renovation, for a total commitment of $3 million.
“Chattanooga’s Westside is one of our most historic neighborhoods, home to over five generations of our residents,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly. “The Westside Evolves plan will ensure this critical part of our city is revitalized in a way that will support the growth and prosperity of future generations, all without displacing the existing community. This is exactly the kind of thoughtful planning we need to further our vision for One Chattanooga, and I’m grateful to City Council for supporting this transformative initiative for our city.”
Westside Evolves is a collaborative neighborhood planning initiative among the Chattanooga Design Studio, the Chattanooga Housing Authority (CHA) and the City of Chattanooga. In addition to the funding provided by the City, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleishmann secured a $3 million federal appropriation for the project, and Hamilton County invested an additional $2 million in American Rescue Plan funds. The money will be used to leverage additional dollars to fully fund the project, at an estimated total cost of $1 billion over the next 10 years.
Adoption of the plan launches an official partnership between the City and CHA, in which both will leverage the plan as the official strategy for revitalizing the historic neighborhood. With a one-for-one replacement of housing for the 629 families living in the Westside, the plan includes replacement, work force, and market rate housing during each phase of development.
The plan encompasses the area known as the Westside District, which is bordered by Martin Luther King Boulevard, Riverfront Parkway, Main Street and I-27. While residents of College Hill Courts may be relocated during future construction, all lease compliant residents will have the right to return to a new unit in the Westside neighborhood. CHA residents will continue to pay 30 percent of their adjusted income towards rent at any redeveloped property.
CHA executive director Betsy McCright said, “Few planning projects begin in the midst of a pandemic and even fewer are successful. Our residents wanted a voice in the future of their community and their diligence is coming to fruition with adoption of the plan by the City of Chattanooga.”
Chattanooga Design Center executive director Eric Meyers noted, “Chattanooga Design Studio is grateful for the City Council’s support of the efforts of the residents, artists, institutions and planning partners who all worked together to craft a shared vision for the future of the Westside.”
Each phase of the project will seek to employ local residents in construction jobs to support the development. Through an agreement with the AGC of East Tennessee, Westside students attending the Howard School have a unique opportunity to obtain professional training through the AGC’s Construction Career Academy. As they graduate, the students will be able to obtain jobs to work on the construction projects within the Westside, helping end generational poverty in the area.
The Chattanooga Design Studio, www.chattanoogastudio.com, is an independent, non-profit community resource that promotes excellence in urban design through education, facilitation and collaboration.
The Chattanooga Housing Authority, chartered in 1938, is a public body that offers affordable housing opportunities through its Low Income Public Housing Program in Chattanooga and the Housing Choice Voucher Program throughout Hamilton County. To learn more about the CHA, visit www.chahousing.org.