VOL. 132 | NO. 109 | Thursday, June 1, 2017
Long-Awaited Demolition at Foote Homes Begins
By Bill Dries
Foote Homes, the last large public housing project in Memphis, began coming down Tuesday, May 30, with a formal ceremony marking the start of demolition toward the broader South City redevelopment.
Demolition of Foote Homes, the last of the city’s large public housing projects, formally began Tuesday. The mixed-use, mixed-income South City development to come will be more than just the area of the Foote Homes. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)
“It’s a rebirth of a great historic neighborhood,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said. “It’s not only the footprint of Foote Homes, it’s revitalizing the entire neighborhood.”
The redevelopment of Foote Homes proper will follow the pattern and look of Cleaborn Pointe at Heritage Landing, what had been the Cleaborn Homes housing project – the mirror image of Foote Homes on the other side of Lauderdale Street until its demolition in 2012.
Foote’s set of brick buildings with doors and windows behind new plywood are now a stark contrast to the new urbanism and different styles of single-family housing and much smaller apartment buildings at Cleaborn Pointe. You can see the contrast looking east through the gaps of the Foote Homes buildings from Danny Thomas Boulevard.
“We’re looking into a grocery store, some retail – not just residential but other commercial activity, too,” Strickland said of the larger plans for South City. “This is the first public housing redo that we are going to go beyond the footprint and try to do the retail, commercial outside of it and help the neighborhoods around it. That was the agreement between the city and federal government.”
Residents of Foote Homes were moved out of the development late last year. Finding federally subsidized private housing for them, at least during demolition and construction, has been a challenge.
“We just want a rebirth of what was South Memphis, now some people call it South City,” said Strickland, who pointed to wrap-around family services being coordinated by The Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis for residents returning to the area.
The ambitious redevelopment has had several names over the years starting with Triangle Noir, which then became Heritage Trail under Mayor Willie Herenton’s administration, to South City under Mayor A C Wharton.
When the project was called Triangle Noir, the demolition of Foote Homes was to start in late 2012.
After missing in a bid for $30 million in federal funding necessary to get South City started, Wharton’s administration, working with U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, secured the federal funding in the last weeks of the 2015 mayor’s race that ended with Wharton being upset by Strickland.
After taking office in 2016, Strickland discovered the city had to put up a $30 million match in local funding to secure the federal funding for South City.
The other six large public housing developments – Lauderdale Courts, Dixie Homes, Hurt Village, Lamar Terrace, LeMoyne Gardens and Cleaborn Homes – became mixed-income developments starting with the 1998 demolition of LeMoyne Gardens in South Memphis. Lauderdale Courts, which is now Uptown Square, was the only one of the developments that wasn’t demolished because it is on the National Register of Historic Places.