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Photo by Dave Flessner / This sign shows the entrance to Cromwell Hills where the Chattanooga Housing Authority is completing a $31.8 million upgrade of the 200-unit apartment complex.

Four decades after its initial opening, the Cromwell Hills housing development along Cromwell Road has a new look — at least inside of its 200 apartments — after the units were completely refurbished over the past three years as part of a $31.7 million upgrade.

"Everything is new inside of these units and it's great to be in a nice and quiet apartment," said Rosia Boyd, who moved into one of the two-bedroom units at Cromwell Hills earlier this month after living in another Section 8 rental apartment on Wilcox Boulevard.

"We're all glad to see the improvements that have been made — they did a great job," added Jamie Anderson, who moved into one of the renovated three-bedroom units nearby.

The upgrade has been a long time coming, but Chattanooga Housing Authority project manager Mark Bell said the renovation is nearing an end with 141 of the 200 units at Cromwell Hills now refurbished and leased and more expected to be ready soon.

Emerald Villages, including 44 units at Missionary Heights, 29 units at Glenwood East, 14 units at Glenwood North, and 24 units at Woodside Apartments built in the 1970s, also recently completed a similar upgrade and is now more than three-fourths full and should soon fill up, Bell said.

The apartments in both facilities include one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units for economically disadvantaged families that pay no more than 30% of their income in rent.

"We abated all the asbestos and lead paint, fixed all of the structures, put in new floorings and put in new bathroom, kitchen and other appliances and cabinets, along with new washers and dryers, in each unit," Bell said. "Cromwell also added central heat and air and is much more energy efficient than in the past."

Nearly a decade ago, CHA originally planned to add 50 townhomes to Cromwell Hills, but ultimately the project was scaled back and CHA undertook the renovation in a project agreement with developer PennRose Properties using a combination of loans, grants and tax credits from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, the National Housing Trust Fund and the city of Chattanooga's affordable housing fund.

CHA issued bonds for both the $21.4 million of Emerald Villages and the $31.8 million renovation of Cromwell Hills in 2019. The renovation costs an average of $170,938 per apartment, including financing costs and common amenities in each facility.

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Photo by Dave Flessner / The playground at Cromwell Hills has been replaced as part of the $31.8 million renovation of the 40-year-old housing complex.

As part of the renovation work, CHA has converted Cromwell Hills from traditional public housing owned and run by CHA for low-income persons into a housing project using project-based vouchers under the Section 8 rental subsidiary program managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Multi-family Housing.

"We believe this will provide a more stable and reliable funding source for the future," said Betsy McCright, executive director for the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

McCright said tenants of Cromwell Hills and Emerald Villages were able to move to other public housing and Section 8 units during the renovation.

When CHA opened applications for the renovated Cromwell apartments, it received 478 applications for the 200 units, McCright said.

The completion of the upgrades at Cromwell Hills and Emerald Villages follows the end of a similar $13 million upgrade in July of Boynton Towers on the Westside. CHA also is gearing up for an even more ambitious renovation plan to revamp its aging College Hill Courts as part of a new Westside plan for Chattanooga.

"It's been a banner year — and it's all happened during the Covid pandemic," McCright said. "I'm particularly proud of our staff for pulling these projects together during some challenging times."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

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Staff file photo / Cromwell Hills is a public housing site under the Chattanooga Housing Authority.
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