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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Riverview’s Demolition First Step Toward Brighter Future

FEBRUARY 2, 2008

It’s with a certain sense of sadness that today marks the end of Riverview Apartments, a public housing complex that has been home to generations of Kingsport families. But in another important sense, the demolition of Riverview Apartments is a new beginning that makes possible a multimillion-dollar redevelopment project.
More than 60 years after its construction, Riverview Apartments — one of Kingsport’s oldest and most severely distressed public housing complexes — is being razed as the first phase of the city’s HOPE VI project.
In October 2006, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority an $11.9 million HOPE VI Revitalization Grant. That money will go toward building new public housing in the Riverview community and single-family houses in the Sherwood/Hiwassee area. The total cost of the project is expected to exceed $30 million.
Kingsport plans to replace Riverview Apartments with 32 homes: 16 single-family houses and eight duplex units. Six other houses will also be built on scattered sites in the Riverview area.
Following today’s demolition, which begins at noon, New Vision Youth, Fresh Start/HOPE VI, Douglass Alumni Choir, South Central and the Kingsport Parks and Recreation Department will hold a community event featuring refreshments and a short program.
The program’s creatively tongue-in-cheek theme: “I’ll Huff and Puff and I’ll Blow your House Down” will be presented by New Vision Youth and the Douglass High School Alumni Choir. Following the program, refreshments and a chance for fellowship will be available at the V.O. Dobbins Gym for what organizers are calling “Tears & Laughter.”
Revitalizing a neighborhood can be an especially daunting enterprise. But there’s every reason to believe that the success Kingsport has experienced recently in reinvigorating old business properties can be replicated in Riverview.
Launched in 1992, HOPE (Homeownership Opportunities for People Everywhere) VI grants grew out of the work of the National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing and are used to replace severely distressed public housing projects with redesigned mixed-income housing. The grants also provide housing vouchers to enable some of the original residents to rent apartments in the private market.
Once the Riverview project is completed, preference will be given to seniors, the disabled and those currently participating in the KHRA’s self-sufficiency program to locate in the new Riverview community. The goal of the self-sufficiency program, as the name suggests, is to provide access to services such as educational and job training so that program participants can eventually attain greater self-sufficiency and, it is hoped, make the move from renting to outright homeownership.
In a larger sense, of course, revitalizing the Riverview community is important not just to that neighborhood alone, but to residents of Kingsport generally. Cities must periodically reinvent and reinvigorate themselves if they are to survive.
In transforming the Riverview neighborhood, Kingsport will make its future brighter as well.