Development is progressing at Suburban Gardens

Published 9:55 am Saturday, February 13, 2010

FRANKLIN—One thing is certain: The development that will replace the shuttered Suburban Gardens housing complex will mix rental and homeownership opportunities.

The details of that mix, however, are still undecided.

Councilman Benny Burgess, who serves on the Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority Board, appeared before his City Council colleagues Monday night to get input and direction on plans for the redevelopment of the Suburban Gardens complex.

“We’re here tonight on a conceptual basis only,” he told council members. “We don’t want to get too far down the road and come to you with a plan, and it not be something that City Council will accept.”

The complex, located on Banks Street, consisted of 75 total units, 15 of which have already been demolished. The FRHA is planning to demolish the 60 remaining units, according to Deborah Rowe, executive director of the FRHA.

“We’d like to do it this summer,” she said.

Burgess said the FRHA is looking at a two-phase development to replace Suburban Gardens.

The first phase would consist of the construction of nine single-family homes along one side of Banks Street.

“The $80,000 to $100,000 price range is what we think the market would bear in that area,” he said.

Rowe said construction on the homes could begin this year. She said the homes would be built as a “turn-key” development and sold, marketed to families earning between $30,000 and $40,000 a year.

On the other side of the street, the authority proposed building 41 apartment units.

Burgess said that there had been discussion about mixing rental and owner-occupied units, but there was some difficulty securing financing for that configuration.

“So what we’ve come up with is just to basically go back with apartment-style units,” Burgess said.

Councilwoman Mary Hilliard suggested the authority wait and continue trying to secure funding for a mix of owner-occupied and rental units, “instead of rushing to put up 41 public housing units.”

“What is the rush?” she asked. “I’m totally against public housing. I’ve had enough.”

Rowe said the apartments wouldn’t be owned by the FRHA.

“I know we want to say public housing, but really they wouldn’t be public housing because they would be sold and developed by a partnership under the tax credit rule, so we wouldn’t own them,” Rowe said.

Councilwoman Rosa Lawrence asked if there were any concerns that the homeowners would object to living across the street from apartments.

“We’re testing the market to find that out,” Rowe said. She said the apartments would be tax-credit units subsidized by the state with a stringent screening process.

Mayor Jim Councill and Councilman Barry Cheatham also said that they would like to see more opportunities for homeownership in the development.

“I think that would enhance the viability of the neighborhood,” Councill said.

However, Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson, who also serves on the FRHA board, said that it was agreed upon “that some percentage of rental would go back in there.”

“We’ve just got to find the comfortable mix for it, but I don’t think it will be all homeownership,” she said. “The market study dictated that it needed to be some portion for rental.”

As the first phase is under construction, Rowe said, the authority has time to “determine the final course” for the second phase.