Edgehill Homes off 12th Avenue South is the next Nashville public housing complex for which conversations and planning could soon start toward its transformation into a mixed-income community.
“Edgehill is just after that,” Metro Development and Housing Agency Executive Director Jim Harbison said last week, after mentioning planning efforts that kicked off Tuesday toward redevelopment of the Napier and Sudekum public housing located less than a mile south of downtown Nashville.
In his presentation to a joint meeting of Metro Council’s Budget and Finance and Education committees, Harbison referenced his briefing earlier this month of the Edgehill Coalition of residents’ groups, churches and other nonprofit organizations about what’s being called Envision Edgehill.
The eventual redevelopment of what’s now called Edgehill Apartments could further accelerate growth in the Edgehill neighborhood, which lies between the Gulch and 12South. Some area affordable housing advocates, however, are also concerned about increased gentrification within that community.
“Our hope is that Edgehill can remain a strong, middle and working-class community instead of just becoming another Gulch or 12South,” said Austin Sauerbrei, community organizer with nonprofit organization Edgehill Neighborhood Partnership, which is affiliated with Edgehill United Methodist Church.
Mayor Megan Barry’s current capital improvement budget includes $250,000 to fund master-planning for makeover of the 380-unit Edgehill public housing. Plans call for development of the neighborhood in and around the Edgehill and elderly-only Gernert Studio Apartments public housing (556 units overall) in coordination with the development plans of Belmont and Vanderbilt universities.
“This is going to be a very resident-driven process and Councilman O’Connell and I want to ensure that all of Edgehill has the opportunity to weigh in on the future of the neighborhood,” Edgehill area Metro Councilman Colby Sledge said, referring to the adjacent district’s Councilman Freddie O’Connell.
Overall, MDHA plans to pursue redevelopment of six aging Nashville area public housing complexes that are being transitioned to the Section 8 rental assistance program. The agency, however, has to overcome time and financial constraints to eventually implement projects that also include Envision Cheatham Place and Envision Cumberland View.
The first apartment building that kicked off the Envision Cayce revitalization of East Nashville’s Cayce Homes is expected to be completed in spring 2017, while planning is about to get underway for the Envision Sudekum-Napier project under a $500,000 Choice Neighborhood grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
O’Connell said he understands that planning alone for Envision Edgehill could take 18 months. Based on previous comments from MDHA’s Haribson, he also understands that having access to local dollars could help move the planning process for Envision Edgehill forward quicker than Envision Sudekum-Napier.
MDHA’s spokeswoman Jamie Berry, however, said the city’s public housing and development agency is focused on planning for Envision Sudekum-Napier with no timetable for Envision Edgehill.
As with other Envision projects, MDHA plans to replace current public housing units at that community at one for one while building new market-rate apartments.
Sauerbrei of Edgehill Neighborhood Partnership said while the new housing units are guaranteed to remain affordable for 20 years, some residents are concerned about whether they would stay that way for years to come beyond that or an additional 20-year renewal. Berry said the 20-year renewals would be indefinite.
Another concern Sauerbrei cites is whether the restaurants, grocery stores and other amenities that would be drawn to the area would be accessible to everybody including residents in the subsidized units and just those who can afford the planned market-rate apartments.
“This neighborhood has been the recipient of public and private disinvestment for decades,” he said. “I think folks are definitely ready for improved infrastructure and better housing, but there’s a historically grounded fear that ‘investment’ will just mean further gentrification and displacement. Those fears will exist until folks see development following the lead of the working folks in the community and not the other way around.”.