Friday, October 21, 2005

In its first 23 years, the Tidewater Builders Association's (TBA) annual Homearama showcase of homes tended to focus on, areas with "million-dollar homes that our visitors could only dream of buying," said TBA President Jeffrey J. Werners, in a letter to HUD Secretary Jackson.

[Photo: Leon and Jeanith Marshall's house (Gary Knapp, Virginia Pilot / Photo)]

But, in its 24th year, that all changed. Thanks to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the Association's Homearama found a new focus in 2005 � affordability � and a new "home" - Norfolk's Broad Creek neighborhood.

For most of its history, Broad Creek, an 87-acre area near downtown Norfolk has been known as a neighborhood of mostly public and low-income housing, most of it old and much of it run-down. When Norfolk won a $35 million HOPE VI Revitalization grant in 2000, Broad Creek's future took a very different turn.

HUD's $35 million grant, Werners observed to HUD Secretary Jackson, "has leveraged another $200 million in public-private investments" that has made Broad Creek "one of Norfolk's "hottest" real estate opportunities" in the region.

More than 300 new homes and 300 rental units will rise in Broad Creek, ranging in size from 1,300 to 3,200 square feet and from $170,000 to $500,000, making it, "a national model for developing quality mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhoods," said Werner.

TBA's theme for the 16-day Homearana showcase is "Meet Downtown Norfolk's New Neighbors". Leon and Jeanith Marshall, two "new neighbors," had a goal of owning their first home by age 50. Leon, a 47-year-old bell captain at a downtown Norfolk hotel, and his wife, Jeanith achieved that goal by saving $150 a month by not going out to dinner.

In early October, the Marshalls moved into a brand-new, 3-bedroom, 2½ bath home in Broad Creek. Their home appraised at $205,000. With down-payment assistance and discounts by the Authority its actual purchase price was $103,000. Some 90 other low- and moderate-income households will get similar assistance so that they can experience the American Dream of homeownership at Broad Creek. "This is what we get for being patient," Jeanith told The Virginian Pilot. "I'm grateful."

"I'm so proud of them," added Dianne Montgomery of the Norfolk authority. "They started from the beginning, working on goals, and now they're purchasing a new home in a wonderful community � and a Homearama community at that!"

With "New Neighbors" like the Marshalls, and TBA's initiative, Werners agrees that HUD's resources are helping "transform a blighted and depressed community into a vibrant, mixed-income, mixed-use urban neighborhood."

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