New 10-classroom building also marks start of significant community revitalization
Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation (KCDC), along with business and community leaders and members of the Western Heights community, officially broke ground Sept. 8 on a Head Start facility that will provide comprehensive preschool programs for neighborhood children.
The new $5.4 million facility, located at the intersection of West Oldham Avenue and Reed Street, will provide Head Start and Early Head Start programming by the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC) and will serve children from infant to age 5.
The groundbreaking also marks the start of significant revitalization planned for Western Heights and the broader Beaumont neighborhood. Construction of the Head Start facility is expected to be completed in late 2022.
“Head Start changes the lives of children and their families living in the community, because it provides an early start to education,” KCDC Executive Director and CEO Ben Bentley said. “We want to provide neighborhoods where families can thrive, and today’s groundbreaking is made possible because of the combined efforts of our business and community partners. We especially appreciate the commitment of Western Heights residents to help lead the renewal of their neighborhood.”
Bentley was joined at the ground-breaking celebration by Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon; Knoxville Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie; Bob Whetsel, KCDC board chair; Barbara Kelly, executive director of CAC; and representatives of Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) and design, construction and financing partners.
“The City supports investment in revitalization and recognizes the hard work and passion that already has gone into re-energizing this neighborhood in support of its families,” Mayor Kincannon said. “Investing in children means a better tomorrow for the whole community.”
The Head Start facility, which will serve more than 130 children, will include four classrooms for infants and toddlers and six preschool classrooms inside 22,000 square feet of space. The site also features two playgrounds with covered and uncovered portions, a large multipurpose room and an expanded parking lot.
“Head Start programs are proven to help get young children ready for school and also promote social, emotional and physical growth and development,” Kelly said. “We appreciate the efforts of KCDC, all stakeholders and members of the community who have worked together to bring us to this ground-breaking celebration.”
The building will be leased by KCDC to CAC, which will operate the center and provide early childhood education; family services; health screenings; assistance with mental health and disabilities; free and nutritious meals; transportation to and from the Head Start; and dual-language learning programs.
The addition of a Head Start center is part of KCDC’s upcoming transformation of the Western Heights site and Beaumont neighborhood through the Transforming Western initiative, a 15-month planning process for the future of Western Heights housing, neighborhood and people. The process will culminate with KCDC applying in November for a $30 million HUD Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant to fund neighborhood transformation.
Construction costs will be partially funded through Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC), which allows KCDC to raise private equity for the Head Start facility. Home Federal Bank of Tennessee is the mortgage lender, and the Knoxville Housing Development Corporation, a wholly owned instrumentality of KCDC, will be the borrower.
McCarty Holsaple McCarty designed the Western Heights Head Start facility, and the construction contractor is Jenkins & Stiles. KCDC’s owner’s representative on the project is Blackburn Development Group.
The larger Transforming Western initiative is more than just replacement affordable housing. While the plan will include rebuilding or significantly renovating the affordable housing already available at Western Heights – which was originally constructed in the 1930s – it includes more affordable housing units than currently on-site; additional units for people of varied income levels; and revitalization of the surrounding Beaumont neighborhood. The planning process began last February and also includes months of input from Western Heights residents and Beaumont neighborhood stakeholders.