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Highland View redevelopment

 
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Ellen
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Joined: 15 May 2004
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Location: Oak Ridge, Tennessee

PostPosted: Sat Jun 05, 2004 4:04 pm    Post subject: Highland View redevelopment Reply with quote

It's no secret that the city's original neighborhoods are aging, and that some areas are "in decline" -- meaning that some homes are in disrepair, the proportion of owner-occupied homes is decreasing, property values are stagnating, crime is an increasing concern, etc.

Meanwhile, there is a concern that Oak Ridge lacks homes in the quality and price range that many area newcomers are looking to buy. People seeking a brand-new single-family home in the $100,000+ price range won't find it here, but may find what they are looking for in a new subdivision in Anderson County, west Knox County, Loudon County, or other areas.

Clearly, we need to try to revitalize our older neighborhoods -- for the well-being of the people who live there, and to make them more attractive and desirable for a new generation of residents. The proposed Highland View neighborhood redevelopment is supposed to do just that, and I think it's a good idea. City staff, the Oak Ridge Housing Task Force, and City Council (especially Tom Beehan, who mostly spearheaded this initiative) deserve a lot of credit for starting the process of redeveloping parts of this neighborhood at the center of the city.

However, I also think I understand why some Highland View residents have been nervous about the proposal....

Among the sources of concern:
    1. One person's "substandard housing" is another person's "cheap place to live". That's another way of saying that renters with limited incomes are willing to put up with less-than-ideal conditions in order to save on rent. There's no getting around the fact that redevelopment of the Applewood Apartments would cause some people to have to pay more rent some place else. Something must be done to help displaced people find new housing they can afford. Fortunately, if federal funds are used in redevelopment, there are provisions for helping with relocation expenses for people who are displaced. This can include help with moving expenses and security deposits, as well as temporary assistance in paying higher rents.

    2. KCDC, the organization that was brought in to help with the plan, has achieved some impressive successes in Knoxville, but it also has accumulated some negatives over its long history. Some Highland View residents have focused on KCDC's problems (unfortunately, it appears to me that some absentee landlords of neighborhood rental properties, who have the most to lose in an aggressive redevelopment, encouraged a fear of KCDC Sad ), and the agency staff failed to win residents' trust.

    3. The "Highland View Neighborhood Redevelopment and Urban Renewal Plan," which was circulated in draft form and was ultimately adopted by City Council on May 17, 2004, contains some alarming statements about Highland View and other older neighborhoods. For example, it says
    Quote:
    More than 6,000 of the City’s 12,000 housing units are from World War II and immediate post-war era. These relatively small units were built by the Federal Government and intended to last for 7 years. They are single family, duplex and four-plex versions, built of Cemesto panels, a mixture of cement and asbestos applied to a fiber core. Perhaps as many as half of these homes should be demolished. [Emphasis added.]
    It seems to me that owners of original Oak Ridge original dwellings who read those statements would have good reason to fear that the City intended to use eminent domain authority to take over their property and demolish their homes. Shocked
    Note: The Highland View plan is on the web, as part of the City Council agenda package for May 17: http://www.cortn.org/agendapackets/05172004/agenda05172004.pdf.
    Warning: Don't try to view that file unless you have a fast Internet connection.


    4. Other parts of the Highland View plan imply that the real purpose of the proposed redevelopment is to promote commerce by increasing shopping activity at the Oak Ridge mall (after it is redeveloped). I do not believe that city staff or City Council members have this as their goal -- I believe they are sincere when they say their desire is to improve the quality of life for Highland View residents. However, I can see why a person might conclude that there is a hidden agenda after reading statements like
    Quote:
    This plan, the Highland View Redevelopment and Urban Renewal Plan, is concerned with reinforcing the recent development in the Central Business District and providing development opportunities. Now that the Oak Ridge Mall is scheduled to undergo significant redevelopment, it is past time to shift the emphasis toward the areas that contain significant opportunities for continued economic development.

    5. The history of government efforts to encourage affordable or low-income housing shows that it is nearly impossible to craft a program in which benefits only go to the people the program is supposed to target. Most types of housing subsidies end up benefiting landlords and developers, at least in part. Residents who are aware of this have at least some rational basis to fear that the Highland View redevelopment is really designed to line the pockets of real estate developers and speculators.

In view of these and other concerns of the residents, I think it was wise of City officials to:
    (1) declare that no owner-occupied property will be acquired by eminent domain unless it is severely blighted and the owner refuses to accept assistance in making repairs

    (2) establish a steering committee, consisting of neighborhood residents, to make recommendations on plan implementation

    (3) cut its connections with KCDC, unless the steering panel recommends that they should be involved in project implementation.
I think this program is important and worthwhile, but only if the people who are supposed to benefit from it are comfortable with it.
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Ellen
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Joined: 15 May 2004
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Location: Oak Ridge, Tennessee

PostPosted: Sat Jun 05, 2004 11:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Highland View neighborhood residents have until June 15 to apply to serve on the steering committee for the redevelopment project. The steering committee application can be downloaded at this link: http://www.cortn.org/comdev-html/SteeringCommitteeApplication.pdf.

Note: For the purposes of this project (and the steering committee application), the Highland View neighborhood is an area bounded by Illinois Avenue on the west, West Outer Drive on the north, Pennsylvania Avenue on the east, and Providence Road and Oak Ridge Turnkpike on the south (the area includes Grove Center but not the Oak Ridge High School campus).
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Ellen
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Location: Oak Ridge, Tennessee

PostPosted: Thu Jun 10, 2004 12:04 am    Post subject: Clarification Reply with quote

At Monday evening's Council meeting, City staff clarified the City's relationship with Knoxville Community Development Corporation (KCDC). Today's newspaper also has the story, at http://www.oakridger.com/stories/060904/new_20040609033.shtml .

What was said is that KCDC completed its contractual obligations to the City, and no decisions will be made on additional contracts until after the steering panel consisting of neighborhood residents has convened and made recommendations.
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Ellen
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2004 11:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow -- there are twenty-three applicants from Highland View residents who want to serve on the seven-member steering committee for the redevelopment project. Surprised

This is great news, but I don't envy the City Council the task of choosing among this well-qualified group of concerned citizens. Regardless of who is chosen Monday evening (June 21), I hope that the rest of the 23 will participate in the process. Cool
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Ellen
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Location: Oak Ridge, Tennessee

PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2004 12:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The steering committee has been appointed and (according to the Oak Ridger) is getting ready to hold its first meeting on Tuesday, July 20, at 5:30 pm. The newspaper doesn't say where this group will meet. Confused

Members of this committee are Michelle Benson, Howard Box, Judith Kelly, Tribby Kelly, James Moore Jr., Mary Pruitt and Claudia Walls.
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