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KCDC hosts open house for community to see final plans of Western Heights transformation project

Some members of the community said the plans have exceeded their expectations.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A $220 million project is being discussed in Knox County, as leaders considered making several changes to the Western Heights community, in North Knoxville.

The Knoxville Community Development Corporation has approved plans to expand the number of affordable and mixed-income housing units in the Western Heights area as well as create new parks, green spaces and buildings.

The project is called "Transforming Western," the summary name of many plans to build in the Western Heights community. KCDC said they spent around 15 months planning with residents and other stakeholders in the area before revealing the plans to the community for a final look. 

It was the last step before they kick off the project and start working on funding.

"It will change this community, " Joyce Fremman said, who lived in the community for 20 years. "I've been out here a long time and this place needs help. It needs a lot of doing and I'm glad they're getting ready to change it."

She said she hoped the plans would create a better future for the community. A pastor in the community, Dean Braden, said he also hopes the plans revitalize the area.

"Ever since rule high school closed several years ago, this place kind of lost its identity," he said. "This looks like something that'll bring the identity back to the community."

According to city leaders, around 43% of the Western Heights community is made up of children. Bart Mcfadden, the Boys and Girls Club President and CEO, said the project would be important for the organization.

"We've been in this Western Heights community for nearly 30 years serving kids and families with out-of-school time programs to help them succeed academically, socially and be physically fit," he said. "This initiative with KCDC would actually allow our services to expand."

The next step is to apply for a $40 million grant from Housing and Development. The entire budget for this project is roughly $220 million. To look at the full project details, click here. 

According to officials, the area has 440 KCDC housing units, which are given to people with low incomes. There are also has more than 1,000 privately-owned parcels of land.

Transforming Western will turn the area into a mixed-income community, according to officials. The plan calls for unpainted brick buildings to be demolished and new housing to be rebuilt, while painted brick buildings will be renovated, some with new shutters and new porches.

During an Oct. 19 meeting, officials said people who may be displaced by the construction would be given the option to return to the Western Heights community and would get support. People will be able to return to new housing units if they want to, officials said.