Lonnie Edwards, the project manager for the renovation of Boynton Terrace Apartments, stands outside of a non-renovated building, right, and a renovated building, back, after leading a tour on Wednesday, June 28, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

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Brighter day for Boynton residents

Folks living in building 951 of the Chattanooga Housing Authority's Boynton Terrace apartments are looking forward to moving day.

Sometime next month, 75 or so individuals or couples will start packing up their stuff and leaving behind dim lighting, stained floors and ceilings, leaking windows and shabby kitchens in their high-rise building off west M.L. King Boulevard.

They'll be moving only a few yards, into building 953, newly renovated with a fresher look — brighter lighting, new paint and flooring — and new energy-saving and safety features, including a buildingwide sprinkler system and new ventilation.

And they'll have their own door keys.

"That's the best thing about the whole thing," said Joe Clark, a member and former chairman of the Boynton Terrace residents council. Residents hate their current building's automatic locks, where one unthinking moment can leave them locked out of their apartments and perhaps facing a $33 fee to get back inside.

CHA showed off the nearly $4 million project in a walk-through Wednesday morning. Housing Authority Executive Director Betsy McCright said this is the first renovation at Boynton Terrace since it was built in 1971.

"This is one high-rise where we have not done any capital work ever, so the residents had always said, 'When is it going to be our turn?' Now, it's their turn," McCright said.

The former residents in building 953 were moved out for the makeover. Some moved into other CHA buildings and some took Housing Choice vouchers and rented from private landlords, she said.

Those folks won't be coming back. Instead, the residents in 951 will move in, and CHA will start redoing their old building.

And they're eager, residents council President Bennie Haynes said.

"I think most of the people in there, including myself, are ready to move into that building," Haynes said. "They just want something where the windows won't leak and the air conditioning is working properly. It's probably our Fourth of July present."

The best way to appreciate the fresh paint, new flooring and kitchen cabinets and bright LED lighting in the halls and rooms is by comparing it to unrenovated building 951. There, dark mauve-painted walls are dimly lit by low-wattage bulbs, the air is stale and musty, and vacant apartments show stained floors and ceilings and worn-out fixtures.

In the renovated building, project manager Lonnie Edwards proudly pointed out new heating and air units in each apartment and described a full-building ventilation system that will keep fresh air circulating. Each unit has new kitchen cabinets and water heaters; the basement laundry is fitted with energy-efficient instant water heaters and is awaiting installation of washers and dryers.

The residents will bring the stoves and refrigerators from their current apartments when they move. That's a disappointment for Clark, because they had expressed hope for better appliances when the renovation was under discussion.

"I feel like if you're going to redo an apartment, you'd think you'd have to have some new appliances," Clark said. "They're old; they might not last for six months. Why would you put something in like that and next week you've got the expense of buying a new appliance all over again?"

McCright said CHA is using capital funds to do the work. Over the years, HUD has cut the agency's capital budget from $11 million a year to $3.2 million now.

Not wanting to raise hopes early on given the tight budget, she said, the agency only talked about redoing the one building. But now, the agency hopes to get started within the year on building 951 and will do the third residential building after that.

"I think we were really cautious at the beginning, I think we were a little unsure about the funding. Now I think we have enough capital funds to use for the next four years," she said,

Edwards, who's been with CHA since 1981, oversaw the $4.7 million renovation at Mary Walker Towers that was completed in 2011.

"You go in and you do a renovation, it's such a drastic change in the end, it's really great," he said.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at or 423-757-6416.