At their meeting Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021, Knoxville City Council approved $3,781,900 in City funding for Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation’s (KCDC) Austin Homes revitalization project, bringing the City’s total investment in the project to $12,531,900.
“This is a huge and important investment in the heart of our city,” Mayor Indya Kincannon said, noting the project’s pedestrian-friendly design and access to transit. This funding comes from the City’s new Knoxville Affordable Housing Fund, established by Mayor Kincannon in her 2021-2022 budget to support the creation of new affordable housing.
The City’s investments pay to demolish the 80-year-old buildings and replace the stormwater infrastructure, utility infrastructure and roadways, and add new sidewalks, lighting and park space – all in support of the 438 new affordable rental units that will be available to households with incomes under the Area Median Income (AMI).
“Well-planned, well-designed infrastructure enhances the new housing and creates a neighborhood,” says Becky Wade, Director of Housing and Neighborhood Development.
Approximately 129 Austin Homes apartments were occupied when the complex’s remaining original buildings were demolished. All of those residents were offered temporary relocation in other KCDC properties and are guaranteed housing in the new apartments when they open.
KCDC developed the Austin Homes Master Plan through a series of public open houses and input meetings held in 2018 and 2019 with residents, stakeholders and other members of the public. Attendees spoke with KCDC staff and design team architects Gensler and Johnson Architects and identified what they valued most about Austin Homes and the amenities they’d most like to see in the revitalized neighborhood, including community space, green space and opportunity for retail, like a grocery store.
Phase III includes completion of new utility and stormwater infrastructure as well as new public streets, sidewalks, streetlights and landscaping. Additionally, this contract provides funds for the extension of the newly built Austin Homes Boulevard with a bridge over First Creek to connect to Georgia Street, including sidewalk and lighting. Phase III is expected to break ground in mid-2022 and be completed by the end of 2023.
The Austin Homes Revitalization Project continues KCDC’s process of reimagining the design and development of public housing – a model established by the Five Points Master Plan and revitalization. Over the course of 10-plus years, KCDC engaged with area residents and stakeholders to replace the 60-year-old Walter P. Taylor Homes.
The infrastructure and layout of the new Austin Homes residences, open areas, streets and greenways also creates connectivity with downtown, the Old City and destinations throughout East Knoxville.
For example, the $5 million 2-mile East Knox Greenway is being designed that will connect Harriet Tubman Park with the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum. The greenway will connect Austin Homes, Vine Magnet Middle School, Dr. Walter Hardy Park and the heart of the Five Points community with the Botanical Garden trails to the east.
Planning is progressing on a proposed publicly owned multi-use stadium just east of the Old City – which, if built, would only be about a third of a mile from Austin Homes. Both the City and the private developers of the proposed stadium and surrounding district envision easy pedestrian access between Austin Homes and the stadium. Greenway links also would connect Austin Homes to the Morningside Park and First Creek greenways.