By Ronald W. Weathersby
The Metro Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) has agreed to purchase the property belonging to the Metropolitan Teachers Credit Union (MTCU) located at 1605 Jefferson St and is planning a 35-unit apartment development on the site. The 26,000 square foot lot will be bought for $219,000 and the purchase should be completed by the beginning of 2014.
MTCU began in 1957 as the Teachers Benefit Association with a group of eight educators who sought to serve the unmet needs of African American Teachers in Nashville. According to the Website, crediunionaccess.com the MTCU has nearly 1,000 members and assets of $3 million. MTCU purchased its present location in the late 1960s. Beverly Barton, manager of the financial institution said she was not ready to make any announcements to the press about the future location of the credit union at this time.
“We need to go to our members first before we talk to the newspaper,” Barton said in a telephone interview. However, she did confirm the fact that the apartments will be built on the property. “The complex will go up here.”
Barton did tell the Tribune that MTCU operations will continue if not at its present location. “As far as I know the credit union will remain open.”
Joe Cain, MDHA director of urban development, told the Tribune the agreement between the city and MTCU allows the credit union six months after completion of the sale to “find another location.”
“During the six month period after closing we will begin the design work. Once the period is over, construction will begin immediately.”
Cain also said the apartment development probably be a mixture of units to serve families and single residents.
“We don’t know the full mixture of 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms,” Cain said. “We have begun the preliminary studies but we have not hired an architect at this time.”
Cain said the public could look to the new Uptown Flats apartment complex located on Dickerson Avenue as a model of what should be constructed on Jefferson Street.
Uptown Flats in east Nashville was built to “bring new life to an area once plagued with crime and prostitution” according to MDHA. It is a three story 72 unit residential building containing two and three bedroom apartments renting from $659 to $955 a month.
For many years Jefferson Street merchants have been fighting to clean up the area which, in spite of a rich history as the center of African American culture in Nashville has developed a negative reputation which has made it difficult for new businesses to start. The announcement of the development has many of the local business owners optimistic about the future. They hope this will be the beginning of bigger and brighter future for the area.
“They say that one of the hindrances on Jefferson Street was that there is not enough housing,” said Nathaniel Harris who has operated Woodcuts Gallery and Frame Shop at 1613 Jefferson Street since 1987. “More housing should bring more customers and more business development to the area. I would think the same thing would happen here as what’s happening in Georgetown. We also need more housing for students at Fisk, Meharry and Tennessee State as well as their instructors.”
Harris is referring to the successful Georgetown redevelopment which has seen a boom in housing developments which generated an increase in retail establishments and restaurants in the area which is about two miles from the Historic Jefferson Street District. In addition, there has been extensive redevelopment of the Hope Gardens area between Rosa Parks Blvd and 12th Avenue North.
The total cost of the yet to be named 1605 Jefferson Street complex is projected to be between $3.5 million and $4 million. All units will be rented at market rates. There are currently no plans to offer the units as low income or Section 8 housing.
The community will have an opportunity to review and comment on the project according to Cain.
“We are planning to hold community meetings to discuss the design and construction of the complex.”