Mixing It Up

Monday, August 27, 2007

"If at first you don't succeed," the saying goes, "try and try again."

[Photo: House under construction]
Sapling Grove complex.

Well, the Bristol, Virginia, Redevelopment and Housing Authority did try. And tried again, but both times with no success.

The Authority, tried a third, even fourth time. No guarantees, though, that the Authority would succeed no matter how many times it tried.

So, the Authority tried a completely different approach..

And it worked. Just visit the new Sapling Grove, a complex of 13 duplexes currently under construction, with 6 one-bedroom, 800-square foot apartments and 20 two-bedroom, 1000 square-foot units built on the site of the former Rice Terrace Extension public housing complex just a few blocks from downtown. Each will reflect universal design and EarthCraft "green" building techniques and include Energy Star refrigerators, dishwashers, garbage disposals, clothes washers and dryers. Three will accommodate the mobility-impaired and two the hearing- and sight-impaired.

Originally, the Authority had hoped to win a HUD HOPE VI revitalization grant to redevelop the site. In Virginia, authorities in Norfolk and Richmond and Danville and Roanoke had won HOPE VI grants. And the Portsmouth authority had won two. But, in this instance, the HOPE VI competition was very stiff and seven wasn't Bristol's lucky number. After two tries, it was time for the Bristol Authority to look elsewhere.

Its persistence paid off as the Authority systematically went about the business of assembling a financing package including HUD public housing modernization and housing replacement housing factor funds, Low Income Housing Tax Credits and a loan from the Virginia Housing Development Authority to revitalize a part of its public housing stock.

Ground was broken for the $4 million project in June and some of the units already are under roof with the first ready for occupancy next June.

"Bristol has long been known as the birthplace of country music," explained Bristol authority executive director Dave Baldwin. "With completion of the Sapling Grove Apartments, though, it may also become the birthplace of mixed-finance housing. Winning a HOPE VI would probably have speeded the completion and eliminated some of the headaches.

"Having a mix of resources makes both the package and the project even stronger," he added. "We have been able to develop high-quality, highly-marketable and affordable housing with less than $500,000 in debt on the property. Thanks to the hard work and creativity of our commissioners, our staff and our partners, Bristol will have a mixed-finance project that can serve as a model for other communities - small and large - across the Commonwealth and the country."

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Content Archived: September 09, 2009