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Photo by Dave Flessner / State Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, Pennrose Regional Vice Presient Mark Straub, Chattanooga Housing Authority Chairman Jim Levine, CHA President Betsy McRaue, City Council Representative Russell Gilbert and Mayor Andy Berke break ground on the redevelopment of Cromwell Hills apartments.

Three years after the Chattanooga Housing Authority first approved the renovation of the Cromwell Hills apartments, city and state officials gathered at the 45-year-old housing complex Wednesday to mark the start of a nearly $20 million upgrade of the 200 apartment units.

With a variety of city, state and federal grants, tax credits and loan guarantees, CHA recently issued tax-exempt bonds to finance the renovation and long-term lease for Cromwell Hills to developer PennRose Properties.

"This has been a long journey for all of us," Mark Straub, the regional vice president for PennRose Properties, which will operate the apartments under a 99-year lease with CHA. "At one time we had a much greater vision plan and we had to resize it. But thankfully through all of our hard work, we've been able to bring this together and make it work."

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Photo by Dave Flessner / Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke speaks at the groundbreaking for the remodeled Cromwell Hills apartments.

Over the next 18 months to two years, Straub said the apartments will get new HVAC equipment, appliances, flooring, electrical service and plumbing — "most everything, including the kitchen sinks."

Naveed Minhas, vice president of development for CHA, said the first 60 units have been vacated for renovation work to begin and other apartments will be vacated and renovated over the next couple of years until the entire complex is redone.

PennRose also plans to refurbish Emerald Villages, including 44 units at Missionary Heights, 29 units at Glenwood East, 14 units at Glenwood North, and 24 units at Woodside Apartments. CHA expects to close on a separate bond issue for that project on Dec. 27, Straub said.

The housing units are targeted at those making only 30% to 60% of the average median household income in Chattanooga. Tenants pay up to 30% of their income for rent.

Originally, CHA planned to add another 50 townhomes as part of its Cromwell Hills renovation project. But the project was revamped several times and the renovation of the Emerald Villages was aided this summer with the addition of $400,000 from the city's Affordable Housing Fund to match other U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Tennessee Housing Development Authority programs.

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Staff photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Sep 27, 2010 - Cromwell Hills is a public housing site under the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

Betsy McCright, executive director for the Chattanooga Housing Authority, said those moving into the renovated apartments will also be given support for child care and career development.

"This represents a continuation of the CHA quest to expand affordable housing in Chattanooga," McCright said. "These residents will have much more than just a new home. In conjunction with these renovations, the CHA has engaged 30 members of the community in non-profit and for-profit businesses who have pledged an amazing array of opportunities for each and every family member."

McCright said the assistance will include early childhood education, post-secondary educational and career path help, health and financial fitness training, as well as the social captital of having people there to help when difficult situations arise," she said. "We're excited about that piece as much as as our brick and mortar."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

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