Some Westside residents oppose Atlanta-based Purpose Built Communities in Chattanooga

Some Westside residents oppose Atlanta-based Purpose Built Communities in Chattanooga

January 31st, 2012 by Yolanda Putman in News

Gloria Griffith of Chattanooga

Gloria Griffith of Chattanooga

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.


Purpose Built Community representatives will speak at the Chattanooga City Council's Housing and Neighborhood Services Committee at 3 p.m. today. Cars will be available at Renaissance Presbyterian Church, 1211 Boynton Drive, 2 p.m. to transport residents to the meeting.

Some Westside residents say they did not invite the Atlanta-based Purpose Built Communities to revitalize their neighborhood.

"How would people feel if someone came to their community, their home and started making plans without their consent?" asked Chattanooga Organized for Action co-founder Perrin Lance.

Members of the advocacy group met Saturday with Westside resident leaders and knocked on doors at College Hill Courts, telling residents in the public housing complex about Purpose Built's scheduled presentation today at the Chattanooga City Council Housing Committee. In three hours of knocking, hardly any residents had heard of the meeting, Lance said.

Buffett organization

Purpose Built, an Atlanta-based nonprofit co-founded by billionaire Warren Buffett to improve impoverished neighborhoods, has proposed a planned community in Chattanooga that includes new housing for residents of mixed incomes, a charter school, early learning programs and community services such as job training and senior services.

The organization has built similar neighborhoods in Atlanta and New Orleans, and also is working in Jackson, Miss.; Rome, Ga.; and Birmingham, Ala.

"We're no fool," said Gloria Griffith, a Westside resident of more than 40 years. "This is not going to be for people with low incomes. We know that the condominiums are coming."

Purpose Built intends to include residents in its plans, said John Hayes, former director of Building Stable Lives at the United Way of Greater Chattanooga. He noted that the heads of several Westside resident associations attended the Purpose Built presentation in December.

There have been no meetings since then, Hayes said.

Today's meeting is to inform City Council members that the city has the chance to work with Purpose Built, but it hasn't even been decided that the Atlanta group will build in Westside.

Other locations

Other locations also being considered include the former Maurice Poss Homes site off South Market Street near Alton Park and the Harriet Tubman housing development, which is being closed down in East Chattanooga, he said.

Lance said Chattanooga Organized for Action is not leading Westside residents to oppose Purpose Built, but his group stands in support of the position Westside residents have taken.

Purpose Built will displace many low-income people, Lance said, and while those people may get housing vouchers, it's unclear how many landlords are willing to accept them.

Griffith said Westside residents who are aware of Purpose Built compare it to the $35 million federally funded HOPE VI revitalization in Alton Park in 2002, which resulted in more than 600 units at Spencer J. McCallie Homes being leveled and replaced with 137 units of public housing. Less than half the residents of McCallie Homes returned to the site.

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