MEMPHIS, Tenn. — All the units are boarded up and workers have started preliminary site work at the now, closed Foote Homes.
Built in 1941, Foote Homes is the oldest, traditional public housing community in Memphis and the last standing.
The remaining residents moved out in January, and demolition is set to start next month.
However, it’ll be four years before the new, 712-unit housing community is up and running.
WREG talked with folks already feeling the impact of that wait, a wait for a revived community they say is long overdue.
Streets Ministries has been around for 30 years.
For the last decade, the non-profit has run out of a building that sits across from Foote Homes.
In recent months, the staff has been dealing with losing some of the very people it was built to serve.
“You see a young person on a Friday say hey, this is my last day here,” said Executive Director Reggie Davis.
Davis says although families have moved, staff members have gone out of their way to still get kids to the center who no longer live nearby.
Facing the potential of declining enrollment, Streets decided to expand its boundaries beyond Booker T. Washington High School.
They now pick up students at Central High, Bellevue Middle, Grizzlies Prep Academy and Grad Academy.
“That opportunity has provided us…to reach more kids, so as families were moving out of Foote Homes our numbers actually went up.”
Dr. Noel Hutchinson is the pastor of First Baptist Lauderdale.
It’s been a cornerstone in the community for more than a century.
The church lost members when Cleaborn Homes closed and one of its founding fathers, Reverend T.O. Fuller, actually fought the construction of Foote Homes.
“It wiped out a lot of middle class homes that were already in this neighborhood,” explained Dr. Hutchinson.
So, Hutchinson says he’s hopes the new, South City will reflect that.
“It looks like finally, that the luster this neighborhood once had will return to the neighborhood.”
Also, he’d like to see residents recently forced out be able to return to the neighborhood, creating a restored community that’s reflective of the past.
“I hope that history doesn’t get lost and washed away, even as we welcome new people that are coming to the area to add to the history,” Hutchinson told WREG.
Paul Young is the city’s Director of Housing and Community Development.
He says while the new development will be mixed income, nearly 70% of the units will be public housing eligible.
“Our goal is to ensure that as many residents that want to come back can come back,” said Young.
As part of the entire process, Memphis Housing Authority, HCD and other key players have documented where families have moved so they can continue to connect them with necessary resources.
This includes a case manager who could for example, assist with credit issues if there was a problem if a tenant wanted to return in four years.
Young told WREG the new South City won’t just be homes.
He says there are also plans for things like a grocery store, and child care center.
Plus, current residents and business owners will be able to reap the benefits of the revitalization with incentives like loans for small businesses and home repair.
Young says the goal is to impact residents who in his words have “weathered the storm.”
“They’ve been there when the neighborhood was high, and as it’s gone down, and they’ll be there as it goes up.”
For example, places like Streets Ministries, where Davis says they’re now waiting for that new day to come.
“We hope to maintain what we’ve been able to do, but we’re also hopeful for what’s to come in four years. We’re looking forward to still being here, to have kids walk across the street again and call this place their home after school.”
There was also serious concern about BTW losing lots of its students because nearly half lived in Foote homes.
WREG checked and according to Shelby County Schools, enrollment numbers are pretty close to what they were this same time last year.