City Program Breathes New Life into Blighted Homes

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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City Program Breathes New Life into Blighted Homes

Posted: 08/21/2014
August 21, 2014 - Jean Ann Washam says that she became emotionally attached to a distinctive home on Washington Avenue that she and her husband, Shannon, were refurbishing as a "labor of love" project.

They wanted to sell to homeowners who shared their dedication.

New owner Sally Harwell says that the moment she saw the home, she felt an immediate pull. She, her husband, Jonathan, and their children have moved into the two-story house in East Knoxville, and it feels like home.

This match made in heaven was made possible by the City of Knoxville's Blighted Properties Redevelopment Program (BPRP). The BPRP provides short-term development and construction financing through subsidized loans for the purpose of redeveloping and renovating unoccupied residential dwelling units for sale, rent or owner occupation.

The Washington Avenue property is a George Barber-designed house, distinctive because of the glazed blocks used for the exterior. The house was empty and condemned until the Washams discovered it.

"The City was incredibly supportive throughout the entire renovation process," Jean Ann Washam says. "Shannon and I wanted to bring the home back to its former glory. The City's support in realizing the value of older homes and its willingness to invest in this program to renovate and prevent homes from deteriorating speaks volumes."

Loans must be repaid upon completion of the development, when the property is sold, or when the owner obtains permanent financing. As loans are repaid, money is made available to fund additional BPRP applications. Applicants will be notified by mail or email when loan funds are anticipated to become available.

The Washams received a City loan for $170,521 for the purchase and renovation of the home. Some of the loan was forgiven, as the program allows for lead-based paint remediation. After the sale of the home, $155,000 was repaid to the BPRP.

Becky Wade, the City's Community Development Director, says the BPRP can be a great help in polishing architectural gems that have fallen into disrepair.

"The City is proud to be able to assist in the redevelopment of older homes, preserving the character of older neighborhoods, getting properties back on the tax roll and eliminating blight," she says. "The BPRP program is a valuable tool that we use in partnership with developers to strengthen Knoxville's communities."

According to the Washams' research, the Washington Avenue home was originally a single-family dwelling, converted to an apartment, and returned to a single-family dwelling.

"Restoring this home was definitely a labor of love," Jean Ann Washam says. "We love historic homes. In fact, all of the homes we've restored have been 100 years or older. The entire process is rewarding - discovering the character of the homes and transforming them into something beautiful and learning their history.

"This is definitely the largest home Shannon and I have worked on. It was overwhelming at times, but we are so pleased with the final effort. The plumbing, electrical and kitchen were updated, but overall we kept to the integrity and history of the home."

Jonathan and Sally Harwell are from Boston and said that the style of the house immediately made them feel at home. It reminded them of homes where they grew up.

"This house has stood the test of time and is a survivor; it's a perfect blend of the Old South with a bit of the Northeast mixed in," Sally Harwell says. "Our family loves living in the house and this neighborhood - a diverse place that we can embrace and call home."

For more details about the Blighted Properties Redevelopment Program or to apply for a project development loan, contact the City's Community Development Department at 865-215-2120.

(Note: Jean Ann Washam and Sally Harwell are available to be interviewed for a news story. Please call Eric Vreeland at 865-215-3480 to arrange an interview.)