This article originally appeared in the Knoxville News Sentinel on Feb. 28, 2016.
Bill Washington can give a tour of his home by simply standing in a narrow hallway and gesturing.
Straight ahead is the bedroom, where neatly folded clothes are stacked on top of a deep freezer next to the bed. To his right is the kitchen, where there is just enough space to pass between the cabinets on one wall and the small dining table pushed against another.
The walls are made of painted cinder blocks and there’s no central air conditioning, but Washington, 53, and his wife, Tegwin, 55, are still grateful.
After his heart attack three years ago, the couple moved into the snug, one-bedroom apartment in Lee Williams Senior Complex.
“I just want to be happy,” he said. “I just want a nice place to call home.”
Still, Washington said he and his wife are excited about a new, much nicer home soon coming.
On Monday evening, officials will reveal renderings for the Residences at Five Points, a new $10 million, 90-unit senior living development on the 33-acre public housing project site that includes Lee Williams and Walter P. Taylor Homes.
Officials with Knoxville’s Community Development Corp. will make a presentation to residents and the public at 5:30 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley on McConnell Street.
“I’ll be thrilled to death to get into one of them,” Tegwin Washington, who goes by Frosty, said of the new apartments. “I would feel like I’m stepping up a little better, with something brand new, and I can enjoy keeping it clean.”
KCDC plans to break ground on the new three-story complex in April, and the building will take about 14 months to complete, said Art Cate, the housing agency’s executive director.
The senior and disabled housing complex is part of a much larger $80 million plan to rebuild the entire site and re-brand it as the Five Points neighborhood.
“Here’s what the community told us: ‘We want more green space.’ ‘We want to reduce the density.’ ” Cate said. “They may not have worded it that way, but that’s the impact. It’s 500 units; going back is going to be about 300 to 320.”
Federal regulations require KCDC to rebuild the same number of units it had before, and everyone who currently lives in the development will have the opportunity to move into one of the new homes, Cate said.
The agency has already built 122, including duplex buildings, single-family houses and the nearby Residences at Eastport, an 85-unit senior living development opened in a converted historic elementary school in 2011.
Cate is hopeful the rest of the Five Points master plan will go just as smoothly.
He expects to announce in June funding for the second phase — a $12 million, lower-density homes project for families, disabled residents and seniors. Construction on that section of Five Points could begin in 2017.
The housing agency would then apply for federal tax credits to fund the third phase in February 2017, hopefully receive approval in June 2017 and begin construction in 2018, Cate said.
The fourth and final phase, though, is too far out to predict.
Included in the master plan is $8 million from the city of Knoxville over 10 years to upgrade roads and other infrastructure in the complex. KCDC also intends to refurbish the existing Boys & Girls Club, install playground equipment and offer walking paths through the entire Five Points complex that connect to a planned city greenway to the Knoxville Botanical Gardens.
“That’s the key — connectivity back to the neighborhood, walkability,” Cate said. “Access to Magnolia is important, that’s why we’re improving Olive Street, and there will be a (traffic) signal there.”
Cate said he hopes the project will have an impact beyond the new buildings, including reducing crime rates and boosting the nearby economy by attracting new businesses.
“When we redid College Homes in Mechanicsville, calls for (E-911) service went down 43 percent,” Cate said. “A lot of that is just the reduction of density. When you have that many people on a small site, it can be problematic.”
The design is also going to create many lines of sight to allow neighbors to see what’s happening in the streets, parking lots and open areas, Cate said.
Though Five Points is the only project scheduled to get a complete replacement, the city’s other public housing developments — it has a total of 3,652 units across 18 properties — will also be getting upgrades in the coming years.
“We have plans to rehab just about every property we’ve got,” Cate said. “Not demolition and new construction, but rehab on the other properties. Western Heights is somewhere in the future.
“We will have a lot of improvements to our affordable housing over the next five years.”