AT A GLANCE
What: Fairmount Avenue Townhomes grand opening
When: 10 a.m. Wednesday
Where: 1311 Fairmount Ave., North Chattanooga
Ashley Carlisle didn't have to work or pay rent in her former government-subsidized apartment, but having the opportunity to live in Fairmount Avenue Townhomes makes her want to be more self-sufficient.
She starts next month as a student at Virginia College and is planning to become a cosmetologist.
"I feel like if you're going to live somewhere nice, you've got to work for it," said Carlisle.
Carlisle expects to be among 18 households moving into the $4 million Fairmount Avenue Townhomes in North Chattanooga before the end of this month.
The Chattanooga Housing Authority is scheduled to host the grand opening for the site Wednesday.
"It looks great," said Pete Lapina, a Fairmount-area homeowner and spokesman for the neighborhood organization called Friends of Fairmount.
CHA first planned to build a 48-unit complex on the site, then reduced the size to 36 units. For more than a year, several Fairmount-area homeowners and Mayor Ron Littlefield spoke against the project, saying it would create too much density in the neighborhood.
CHA settled on in February 2010 on 18 units.
Two years later, Littlefield spokesman Richard Beeland calls Fairmount "a standard-setting development for public housing."
"It is just really beautiful," said Beeland. "We're very proud of the way it turned out."
The city helped the project after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development decreased funding from $4.8 million to $3.9 million when CHA reduced the number of units.
Fairmount is the only housing site to cost more than $222,200 per unit, the only site with solar panels on the roof, and the only site where children are guaranteed a spot at the award-winning Normal Park Museum Magnet School.
The development is built atop a hillside that is lined with walking trails, connecting the housing site to the rest of the community. Residents have a picturesque view of a plush green mountainside.
Every resident will be enrolled in CHA's self-sufficiency program, meaning they will work toward a goal of purchasing a home or continuing their education.
CHA board Chairman Eddie Holmes said it isn't mandatory, but he would like to see residents work toward moving into their own homes or market-rate rental units after five years.
Every resident who is not elderly or disabled has agreed to work, go to school or do both for at least 30 hours a week. And every resident has agreed not to smoke inside the apartments.
Carlisle, who also lived in government-assisted housing in Georgia and Ohio, says she's up for the challenge.
"I want to progress and go further with life," she said. "I want to be better for myself and my family."
Every material and appliance in the townhomes was made in America, except for the linoleum, which was produced in Germany. Having all American-made products was a part of the agreement to get the grant funding, said Mike Sabin, CHA's development manager. Each unit has stained concrete floors and wood veneer cabinetry, he said.
HUD and the housing authority expect to learn from the investment made to create the energy-efficient public housing, said Sabin.