Mixed-Income Community in Tennessee Sets a High Standard for Redeveloping Distressed Public Housing


Affordable housing is sorely needed throughout the country as part of the ongoing housing affordability crisis. Builders are trying to tackle this crisis through a number of different solutions, including focusing on what’s often referred to the “missing middle” of housing to help increase supply and provide consumers with housing options. These include townhomes, condominiums, accessory dwelling units and multifamily developments.

One project that has taken not only providing housing options, but providing affordable housing options, to the next level is this year’s Multifamily Pillars of the Industry Awards Community of the Year, Kirkpatrick Park.

Kirkpatrick Park is the first mixed-income development of Envision Cayce, the comprehensive master plan created to transform Nashville’s largest subsidized housing property — Cayce Place — into a mixed-use, mixed-income community. Located within a mile of downtown Nashville’s Central Business District, the community comprises nearly 100 units designed to meet a range of affordable housing needs:

  • 36 affordable units are for those at or below 60% of AMI for relocating Cayce Place residents,
  • 20 workforce units are for those between 60-120% of AMI, and
  • 38 are market-rate units with no income restrictions.

Smith Gee Studio was selected as the lead architect/planner on the project by the Metropolitan Development & Housing Agency (MDHA), and designed the units to match the area’s unique features.

“East Nashville is characterized by historic neighborhoods, with a variety of early 20th century styles, front porches and an interconnected grid of sidewalk-lined streets,” noted Hunter Gee, FAIA, principal for Smith Gee Studio. “To set the stage for the overall redevelopment, the project needed to blend in, to feel like a naturally evolving neighborhood and it deserved the stature of its historic neighbors.”

The architecture introduces various transitional styles, with gabled and hipped roofs, prominent front porches and stoops and reconnected tree-lined streetscapes reflecting East Nashville’s past. A new internal pedestrian-oriented street (or “woonerf”) and two pocket parks offer on-site neighborhood amenities that further enhance the site.

In addition to the external features, every unit incorporates quartz countertops, tile backsplashes and tub surrounds, stainless steel Energy Star appliances, range hoods, walk-in closets, ceiling fans and smart-lock entry systems including doorbell cameras. The project was also designed to LEED Silver standards.

“It’s great to see a commitment to using a design standard such as LEED to make the homes more affordable to operate, and ultimately more durable and a better built product,” noted one of the Pillars judges.

One of the challenges in bringing these modern features to the project, however, was an outdated utility infrastructure. The infrastructure was reconfigured not only for the Kirkpatrick Park phase of the development, but future projects as well. A critical component, especially in the wake of COVID-19, was the inclusion of service lines for not one, but three Internet providers to offer residents a choice.

The topography could also have been seen as a challenge, with its steep grades, but Smith Gee Studio was able to turn this into a positive by incorporating a variety of mass, form and architecture that made the project feel more organic.

“The topography offered the opportunity for a variety of unit types including a number of townhomes with private tuck-under garages and front porches on the front and back of buildings providing activity on both the street and the parking areas,” Gee explained.

The phased approach to building allowed existing Cayce Place residents to move in early and allow for the demolition work to begin on the 1940s and 1950s distressed apartments the project is set to replace. A waitlist system was used to fill the workforce and market-rate apartments, the rents for which will help support the rents of lower-income residents to keep the project sustainable. The property was fully leased before it opened, and has experienced very low turnover.

As another Pillars judge aptly noted, “Kirkpatrick Park is a highly impressive mixed-income residential project, especially given the diversity of stakeholders, funding sources, neighborhood characteristics, and target residents. Kirkpatrick Park will be a trailblazer, a template for communities across the country, which are struggling to redevelop and repurpose aging, obsolete and blighted public housing stock built in the 1950s to 1980s.”

Learn more about Kirkpatrick Park and the other winners of the 2020 Multifamily Pillars of the Industry Awards at nahb.org/pillars.

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