COOKEVILLE – It may not look like much now – tree covered and overgrown – but a 16-plus acre tract on West End Street in Cookeville is one for the record books.
Putnam County Habitat for Humanity (PCHFH) purchased the property last year from the Tennessee Tech Foundation and is currently planning its largest development to date there – a 47-lot project that will cost several million dollars to construct and nearly a decade to complete.
It’s land that’s been on the non-profit’s radar for years, said Pam Ealey, PCHFH director. She recently held a ground breaking, although home building likely won’t start until 2016.
“It’s so exciting,” Ealey said. “We have prayed for this property for years, and it took some time, but it’s exciting to realize it’s finally coming to fruition.”
Take Highway 70 westbound, turn left at the old Woodford Motor Company, and you’ll land smack in the heart of West End, a neighborhood known for its history and urban character – but also an targeted for revitalization, Ealey said. The development’s proximity to the heart of town – a majority of Habitat homes have been built outside city limits – was arguably the biggest selling point.
“It’s so close to the university, the hospital, jobs,” Ealey said. “Plus there’s economies (of scale) being able to build on one place for awhile. Our largest (development) now is 13 homes. It’s just ideal.”
But it will take time.
Ealey estimates West End Place could take eight years to complete. Bids for infrastructure are expected this summer. The first homes could start in the spring. Because of its scope, the development will be built in three phases: seven homes are included in phase 1, and phase two has 14. The remaining will follow in phase three. Total cost is estimated at around $5 million.
“I’m really hoping that when people see the neighborhood actually going up, we’ll get even more support from the community,” Ealey said. “A lot of people still don’t understand that we have to raise the money for each home we build. Most of that money, 73 percent, comes directly from people in this community, whether through donations or ReStore contributions. The rest comes from Habitat homeowner mortgages and grants.”
First time’s a charm
Besides being the largest Putnam Habitat development to date, there’s a laundry list of other firsts for West End Place. It will be the affiliate’s first development with an HOA, or homeowners association – Ealey said there’s green spaces slated that will need to be maintained. And it’s the first time Habitat has held a charrette, or stakeholders meeting, to get feedback from residents and city officials on the neighborhood’s desired impact and design.
“We didn’t just show up and say, ‘We’re buying this land and building these homes,'” Ealey said. “It’s important to engage the residents. This neighborhood’s important to us; we’ve built 13 homes in the area over the years. And we’ve kind of adopted it back several years ago for revitalization.”
While it will be years before West End Place reaches completion, Ealey tied the development into other long-term goals for the affiliate. Putnam Habitat recently broke ground on its 71st home. She says they average roughly five builds a year; she hopes to increase that number to seven.
“I think with this development being so visible, people will be able to see what we’re doing much easier,” she said. “We can take people there easily. That’s the only thing that stops us. We’ve got to have the money to do it.”