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VOL. 131 | NO. 185 | Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mason Village Start Seven Years In The Making

By Bill Dries

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On a hot day in South Memphis, Charles E. Blake, the presiding Bishop of the Memphis-based Church of God in Christ looked through several chain link fences onto open land on both sides of Mason Street – the street named for COGIC founder Charles Mason – and said, “We’ve got space to grow – room to grow.”

Mason Village is a $10 million residential development on E.H. Crump Boulevard where the Fowler Homes public housing project once stood. The two-story townhomes are for large families. Construction begins in March.

(Submitted)

A block away at Mason Temple, the international headquarters of the church, church members were preparing for the annual Founder’s Day celebration.

“The Church of God in Christ is truly committed to the city of Memphis,” Blake said. “For us Memphis is sacred ground. We do not believe we are here by accident but rather by design and providence.”

The sidewalk gathering Tuesday, Sept. 13, marked the kickoff of the $10 million project to build 77 townhomes of affordable rental housing where the Fowler Homes public housing development stood until its demolition in 2004.

When church leaders gather in cooler weather in March to formally break ground on the six acres bordering E.H. Crump Boulevard, it will be a milestone in a seven-year effort by the church and the city of Memphis to develop more affordable housing.

Mason Village is a $10 million residential development on E.H. Crump Boulevard where the Fowler Homes public housing project once stood. The two-story townhomes are for large families. Construction begins in March.

(Submitted)

The road to larger two and three bedroom apartments for larger families to be completed in March 2018 reflects the difficulty as the last of the city’s large public housing projects – nearby Foote Homes – is being emptied of more than 300 families.

Foote Homes will be demolished to make way for mixed-income residential development that includes mixed uses of the land as part of the larger Heritage Trails development area.

Mason Village is another part of Heritage Trails.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said Tuesday the Foote Homes families are among 700 families moving out of public and federally-subsidized housing in the last six months – including several hundred families leaving the Warren and Tulane apartments owned by Global Ministries Foundation.

“They are looking for affordable quality housing,” Strickland said. “What’s happening now really helps in that process.”

City Housing and Community Development Director Paul Young said the relocations “have been a challenge.”

“Many of these families had high aspirations of the areas of the city that they would be able to move to,” he said. “But when they got their vouchers, the things that were going to be used to subsidize their new apartments, they found that they couldn’t go to any of the places they wanted to go. And some of the places they’ve moved, they’ve had challenges.”

The city, through capital funding over two fiscal years, is putting up a $4 million loan toward the $10 million cost of Mason Village with the Church’s community development corporation partnering with developer John Stanley Inc. of Los Angeles on the other $6 million.

Without the city funding and low-income housing credits from the federal government, developer Saki Middleton, the founder and president of John Stanley Inc., said Mason Village and similar affordable housing developments wouldn’t be done.

“They depend on their income that they get on an annual basis. In this case, the income is low and it’s hard to make money in that kind of business,” he said. “It’s a community project and we sacrificed what we can make on this project so it can come to fruition. Communities around the country have figured it out and I think the way these things work is you’ve got to have a public-private joint venture. If you don’t have that it will be very difficult to deliver this type of housing.”

Strickland took the same position on the private funding piece of Mason Village.

“We need partners. We need the church here to partner with us,” he said. “We have bigger problems than even this one development can cure but this is a good step along the way.”

Young cites a recent affordable housing gap analysis for the Memphis metropolitan statistical area that shows for families making less than 50 percent of the area’s median family income there are 55 units of housing those families can afford for every 100 families.

Middleton and his company have been pursuing Mason Village in some form for seven years.

“It took seven years because of the fact that we’re applying for competitive financing, low income housing tax credits for affordable housing,” he said. “That’s a difficult financing source to obtain. That was our challenge.”

Meanwhile, the concept of the development changed.

“It started out with wanting to do senior housing,” Middleton said. “We saw the rent burden families in Memphis were dealing with as far as not having the ability to afford to pay rent. We tweaked our vision and said, ‘Let’s do families. But let’s not do families in apartments.’ We first looked at homes. We looked at the cost and said that might be difficult.”

The answer was two-story “walk-ups” as rental units.

“It’s been done before,” Middleton added. “I don’t think it’s been done like we are doing it.”

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 81 277 20,909
MORTGAGES 85 329 24,074
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 39 3,086
BUILDING PERMITS 219 672 43,265
BANKRUPTCIES 64 238 13,418
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 56 6,678
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 82 7,871
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 59 4,702