“The Foote Homes public housing development is still standing with word Monday, Sept. 28, that the city of Memphis has secured a $30 million federal grant to convert it to a mixed-use, mixed-income development.
But as the city moves ahead with private developers and investors on its conversion from 400 units of public housing to 712 units of housing – public and market value – for senior citizens and families the city will increasingly refer to it as South City.
Banners proclaiming the area South City and the slogan “people, place, parity, prosperity” went up Monday on the wrought iron fences that mark the soon to vanish boundaries of Foote Homes as Memphis Mayor A C Wharton made the formal announcement of the Choice Neighborhoods grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Private partners and developers Henry Turley and J.R. “Pitt” Hyde also upped their financial investments in the South City project, according to Cohen. No figures were disclosed.
Wharton said the HUD money will “catalyze” $279.6 million in private investment in the general area.
Turley, who is among the developers of the Central Station property to the west, said the goal is to make the larger area “all one neighborhood.”
The federal grant for Foote Homes is the last in a series of six totaling $208 million since the 1990s that have changed the face of Memphis public housing. Since the demolition of LeMoyne Gardens in the late 1990s, the city’s approach has evolved to include more programs and services to encourage displaced residents to return. In early conversions, many residents did not return.
But there remains opposition in the Vance Avenue among some who favor keeping Foote Homes as a renovated public housing development in an overhaul of the larger area. They criticize the plans as a gentrification of the area that will raise the cost of living there for the poor.
Rosalyn Willis of McCormack, Baron and Salazar, the developers of the housing component of the South City plan as well as previous conversions of other Memphis housing projects, said past disparities felt by public housing residents and some of the opposition is a “consequence of some of those decisions.”
The grant is a big win for Wharton’s re-election bid. The two City Council members challenging him on the Oct. 8 ballot said the grant is good news for the city.
“Who could ever argue with that? That’s wonderful,” said Jim Strickland. “Robert Lipcomb has gotten funds to redo all the public housing units for the last 15 years. … That’s really good.”