Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation (KCDC) was awarded a $40 million federal grant for a plan dubbed, “Transforming Western Heights,” aimed to improve the area with more affordable housing and access to transportation.
“Transforming Western truly represents a collaborative effort after 14 months of intensive community engagement,” KCDC Executive Director and CEO Ben Bentley said in a press statement. “This plan is a synthesis of the dreams and ideas of the residents, community members and stakeholders, and will transform Western Heights and the Beaumont neighborhood into a community where families and residents can thrive.”
The Transforming Western plan will cover the renovation and replacement of residential structures, employment opportunities, transportation, safety, better access to health care, and improved internet access for the people of Western Heights, the Knoxville agency said.
Mayor Indya Kincannon added, “We took the time to listen to needs, concerns, and most importantly, the dreams of the people of Western Heights and Beaumont. The city is committed to investing $26.5 million to support infrastructure and affordable housing in this community. This grant also means residents will have more access to early education, recreational spaces, transportation resources, and health care, all which can lead to a brighter future! We also want to thank KCDC as a partner of the City of Knoxville, for its efforts to pursue resources and funds to connect this community.”
The Western Heights Head Start facility will be the first of the plan’s projects to open its doors. The new facility will provide comprehensive preschool programs for the children of Western Heights aged infant to 5, offering early education to over 130 children. The building cost a total of $5.4 million and is 22,000 square feet. The facility will be located at the intersection of West Oldham Avenue and Reed Street.
“Place matters and for low-income families, growing up in an area of concentrated poverty, it can be difficult to get good outcomes,” Community Action Committee (CAC) Executive Director Barbara Kelly said. “This is a chance of a lifetime for CAC to bring coordinated services, relationships and expertise to a neighborhood that has experienced concentrated poverty for decades.”
The KCDC noted that federal program requires the development of housing at a varied income level, including low-income and affordable housing. This, HUD says, will allow residents of mixed-income sites to experience better quality housing, lower neighborhood unemployment and poverty, and increased safety.
HUD Region 4 Administrator Jose Alvarez presented the $40 million Choice Neighborhoods grant on Friday to the KCDC and the City of Knoxville.
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