Star Horton hugs her mother, Wynetta Horton during the meeting of Harriet Tubman residents with the Chattanooga Housing Authority and the former Boys and Girls Club in Chattanooga. Above them is a map which was used to explain which areas of the complex would be vacated first if the plan to demolish the site is accepted.Staff Photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Alinecia Greathouse has lived in the Harriet Tubman housing development for all of her 23 years. She doesn’t want her community torn down.
“I grew up out here,” said Greathouse, who lives in the neighborhood with her aunt and cousins. “For them to say they’re going to destroy it, it hits home. It hurts a lot of people because this is all that they’re used to.”
If all goes as planned, the housing development will be torn down or sold. And people will start moving out within 12 to 18 months, said Chattanooga Housing Authority Executive Director Betsy McCright.
CHA officials met with hundreds of Harriet Tubman residents who packed the former Boys and Girls Club building on Hawthorne Street on Tuesday night.
“Everybody who lives at this place knows that it’s going downhill,” said Doug Wrinn, CHA’s project development manager. “There’s not enough federal funds to fix it up.”
It would take about $33 million to put Harriet Tubman in good condition, according to CHA officials.
At Tuesday’s meeting, officials told residents that they plan to sell Harriet Tubman and turn it into Section 8 property or to tear it down. Residents have 30 days to write questions or concerns about the plan and send them to the CHA’s main office or they may bring their concerns to the Harriet Tubman resident manager.
Housing officials say they will take residents’ concerns into consideration and will present a final plan for the site to CHA’s board of commissioners on April 26 for approval.
The request to sell or demolish the complex then will be sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, CHA officials said, and they expect a response as soon as July.
CHA officials will meet with members of the Harriet Tubman community at 5 p.m. Monday in the old Girls Club and Boys Club, on Hawthorne Street.
Written comments about the demolition of the Harriet Tubman complex should be submitted to the office at the Harriet Tubman site or to CHA’s Central Office at 801 Holtzclaw Ave. by April 15.
CHA officials will present their final plan concerning Harriet Tubman to the CHA board for approval at its monthly board meeting on April 29.
If CHA’s plan receives HUD approval, residents will get a 90-day notice about plans to relocate them, CHA officials said.
Housing officials assured Harriet Tubman residents that they will not be put on the streets.
“The next step is to issue [housing] vouchers,” Wrinn said. “We can’t dispose of the site until you have somewhere to go.”
Rose Wiley, a Harriet Tubman resident of nearly three years, said she looks forward to relocating.
“This is nothing big to me,” said the single mother of three. “My house has been broken into. There was nothing done about it and there are shootings out here all of the time. I’d be happy to get out.”
McCright said the housing authority also is interested in rehabilitating College Hill Courts and East Lake Courts, but doesn’t have the money to do it yet.
In September, College Hill and East Lake were on a list of housing developments that CHA officials said may be sold or demolished under the agency’s five-year plan. Also on the list were Harriet Tubman, Missionary Heights, Glenwood-Devel Lane, Steiner Apartments and Cromwell Hills.
Harriet Tubman has existed in East Chattanooga since 1963, but some buildings on the 36-acre site were built as early as 1953.
The development includes 440 units, with a little more than 300 occupied. Several units have been boarded up because they are too costly to repair, housing officials said.
Residents living in back of the site, where Heaton and Hardy streets come together, will be relocated first, McCright said.
Ann Martin, who helps relocate CHA residents, advised them not to move independently or get in any trouble because they will forfeit their relocation benefits.
Residents also will have the option of living in Emma Wheeler Homes, East Lake Courts or College Hill Courts since these are the only CHA sites with vacancies, housing officials said.
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...