Thursday, March 25, 2010

East Nashville project will provide homes to low-income, deaf residents

East Nashville project will provide homes to low-income, deaf residents

Any new development underway these days has a chance of being unique, due to lack of competition. A new project in East Nashville, dubbed 701 Porter, earns the mantle, however, as the state’s first housing development designed for low-income deaf residents.

The 46,000-square-foot building is being developed by Nashville-based nonprofit Urban Housing Solutions, with construction handled by Baron + Dowdle Construction.

Urban Housing Solutions acquired the site after nursing-home developer Forrest Preston bought Cornelia House — a troubled nursing home that was shut down by the Tennessee Health Department — solely for its certificate of need in late 2007, allowing him to license beds elsewhere.

Preston then turned to the Community Foundation and United Way to solicit proposals from local nonprofits on potential uses for the site. Twenty-five such groups toured the site in the spring of 2008; Preston liked Urban Housing Solutions’ plan to build residences for the deaf, but also suggested that they go for a more varied feel that would serve as a focal point for the community. The remodeled nursing home sits on four acres at the intersection of Porter Road and Eastland Avenue.

Urban Housing Solutions, led by executive director Rusty Lawrence, listened, and is now in the midst of 26,000 square feet of construction. In addition to 20 residential units, the first phases include eight retail bays, a Montessori School (which opened last summer) and space for a restaurant.

Each retail bay is essentially a former nursing-home room, which would’ve held two to four beds.

“We’ve had a lot of demand for those,” Lawrence said. Urban Housing Solutions has tenants for all of the first-phase retail bays, including a bakery, guitar-repair shop and florist, among others. Lawrence said negotiations with a potential restaurant tenant are also underway.

Lawrence said the first phase of construction should cost $1.6 million. Urban Housing Solutions got $500,000 in grants from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency and the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency for the residential units, while a combination of funds from Federal Homeloan Bank, U.S. Bank and The Housing Fund will cover the remainder.

If the first-phase of retailers do well, Lawrence said an addition half-dozen retail bays are available. If residential leasing is strong, Lawrence said there is a capacity for 12 more units, though that space could also be converted for office use, he said.