By Clint Confehr
NASHVILLE, TN — Metro and federal officials ceremoniously started construction of a new public housing development in Kirkpatrick Park on Wednesday when the mayor requested continued federal support.
Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, wanted to attend Nashville’s groundbreaking event, according to Denise Cleveland-Leggett, HUD’s Region IV regional administrator, but air travel issues prevented that.
“He looks at the entire country,” Cleveland-Leggett said. “As as you can imagine, he gets a lot of invitations.”
However, HUD’s secretary noticed the use of the word envision as part of the name for planned public housing developments in Nashville, Cleveland-Leggett told nearly 160 people attending the ceremony in Nashville’s park at 620 S. 9th St.
Envision Cayce is the process that led to the August opening of Barrett Manor as one replacement for James Cayce Homes in East Nashville. Envision Cayce’s second residential construction and first mixed-income development is Kirkpatrick Park, a planned 94-town-home apartment complex.
“What the housing authority is doing here … really piqued (Carson’s) interest,” Cleveland-Leggett said, “because it is a combination of mixed income and, potentially, [a] mixed-use facility; and working on the whole person; working on self-sufficiency —very big on self-sufficiency— and that’s one of the things that really drew him to this.”
Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) programs include a savings plan to help public housing residents move to homes they buy. Murfreesboro’s housing authority, and other such agencies nationwide, offer that path to greater independence.
“There are programs that we have that deal with down-payments for FHA loans,” Cleveland-Leggett said. “One of the things that we’re working toward— self sufficiency — is working with individuals [to get] off of the public housing roster to self-sufficiency, so they can be in a position to buy their one home. That’s the goal, ultimately.”
That goal, explained during the Clinton Administration by the executive director of the Murfreesboro Housing Authority, is to, ultimately, address budgetary issues, as well as helping residents who can, as Cleveland-Leggett said, get “off of the public housing roster to self-sufficiency.”
Among a host of dignitaries, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry thanked HUD for its financial support for making Kirkpatrick Park possible. Barry also asked Cleveland-Leggett to remember Nashville and MDHA when the federal budget is assembled.
As regional administrator, Cleveland-Leggett works from HUD’s Atlanta office, leading its operations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Established in 1938, MDHA houses nearly 13,000 families primarily through public housing and rent vouchers. It manages federally-funded community development and homeless assistance programs for the city. To foster urban growth, MDHA oversees 12 redevelopment districts that guide development through design and land-use zoning controls.