Nashville's housing authority took a major step toward creating the city's new vision of public housing, which hopes to break up blocks of concentrated poverty with varying levels of income. Metro broke ground Wednesday on a new mixed-income building in East Nashville's James Cayce Homes. Called Kirkpatrick Park, it will be the first of its kind in the neighborhood.
The city's largest public housing complex has felt isolated from the rest of East Nashville for years, especially as gentrification surrounds it. But this new building, with 94 units of mixed-income housing, aims to connect current Cayce residents to higher-income renters.
"This creates a bridge for the community," said Nashville Mayor Megan Barry.
But the added obstacle to integration is a recent spike in violence, which has surged to the highest levels since the early '90s — a grim fact the city's housing director, Jim Harbison, addressed directly.
"Just two blocks down the hill here, a talented and beautiful young 16-year-old woman recently lost her life," Harbison said. "Early this summer, another talented, beautiful young woman, killed in the basketball courts. Ten days ago, another shooting and a murder right here at Cayce. We can change that."
Cayce resident Marilyn Greer says many people here have been skeptical of the city's promise to overhaul the sprawling development and make it safer. The plan is called "Envision Cayce" and it's estimated to cost nearly $700 million. But she sees proof of that commitment.
"This is what they need to see," Greer said. "They need to see the ground being broke where construction is getting ready to start, and hopefully they'll be more optimistic about what's getting ready to come."
The housing authority says it expects the colorful, townhome-style apartments to be completed by spring of 2019.