Pocket parks, row houses, central green spaces, nearby parking and a brand new three-story commercial building are highlights of the Murfreesboro Housing Authority's Mercury Park Master Plan to be presented to the Murfreesboro community Feb. 24 and 25. The plan includes the redevelopment of two neighborhoods: Parkside and Mercury Court. Currently, both neighborhoods are comprised of affordable housing; in the new plan, Parkside will still be affordable, or income-based housing, and Mercury Court is likely to be workforce housing, with some income limits.
The new Parkside affordable housing master plan features brand new modern row houses around a central green space connecting to Patterson Park Community Center walkways, with parking to the sides and rear of the four-building apartment complex on 2.4 acres.
At Mercury Court, the seven block-area covering 14.7 acres is planned for brand new workforce housing. Mercury Court will include single-family and duplex homes on Hancock, Minor and S. Bilbro, while streets closer to Mercury Boulevard will feature row houses and townhomes to address the scale of the four-lane major Murfreesboro highway. Four pocket parks will dot the seven-block area to provide planned green space for residents; each residence also will have its own yard. At the corner of First Avenue and Mercury, a three-story mixed used building will house commercial and office on the first two floors, with apartments on the third floor. The three-story building will front Mercury, with parking behind the building.
“The Parkside and Mercury Court properties encompass eight unique and different city blocks adjacent to downtown Murfreesboro, requiring that we design each block individually. At the same time, we worked to collectively include similar elements in each block to tie the neighborhood together,” said Margaret Butler, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, McCarty Holsaple McCarty. The firm designed the master plan for Oakland Court in 2019.
“We wanted homes to front the streets and pocket parks to unify the blocks rather than the dead end cul-de-sacs there now,” Butler said. “We also wanted residents to have their own yards for outdoor activities and gardens, but also to have safe planned green spaces for recreation and enjoying the outdoors together.”
The master plan design has been guided by engagement of the community, including residents, neighbors, nonprofits serving the area, interested citizens and MHA Board members. Online meetings via Zoom, a website, an online survey, a printed survey, letters and mailings, and social media posts began in January and continued through February to give the community multiple opportunities to participate virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The final master plan will be presented to the community February 24 and 25, and will be fine-tuned after that time to meet a March 3 funding deadline.
“In mid-February, we provided three different master plan options to the community after listening to everyone's overall ideas, wants and needs,” said Thomas Rowe, MHA CEO. “We want to
get this right for our current residents, new people who will be living in both Parkside and Mercury Court, and for the City of Murfreesboro. Mercury Boulevard is a key corridor from points east into our downtown. Spanning such a large physical area, we want these new affordable and workforce housing developments to be a true asset to the area.”
At Parkside, care was taken to design parking to the sides and rear of the multi-building complex so residents don't have far to walk from their cars to their homes. The community green space at the interior of the buildings, where a parking lot is now, will be landscaped and will include a connection to the Patterson Park walking trail, as well outdoor green space for relaxation. When complete, Parkside will have the same number of homes, each with the same number of bedrooms, as is there now.
Mercury Court, which is today composed of 74 single-family homes and multiple parcels of land of different sizes along S. Hancock St., Minor St., S. Bilbro Ave. and 1st Ave. will have approximately 130 brand new residences when complete. Plans call for Primary Care & Hope Clinic, currently on MHA property at 608 Hancock Avenue, to occupy new offices in the three-story commercial building at First Avenue and Mercury Blvd. There will be more than 20,000 square feet of commercial space in the building, along with 12 apartments on the third floor.
Rowe said more than 800 people are on MHA's waiting list for affordable housing in Murfreesboro and more than 900 people on a second waiting list for Section 8 housing.
“We need more housing in Murfreesboro that is affordable and that can accommodate our workforce,” he said. “This change in funding at the federal level not only gives the chance to replace very old housing with crumbling infrastructure, but it also allows us to build back more housing on the same property.”
Rowe says the MHA has had to stop taking applications for affordable and workforce housing because of the limited supply and strong demand.
View the new master plan for Parkside and Mercury Court and provide your ideas and comments via the following methods:
1. Join a virtual meeting via Zoom from 4 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 24. Obtain the Zoom meeting link at www.mercuryparkmasterplan.com
2. If you are unable to participate in the Zoom meeting, review the master plan and provide your feedback at www.mercuryparkmasterplan.com.
3. Follow the Murfreesboro Housing Authority on Facebook at
www.facebook.com/murfreesborohousingauthority and comment with your feedback.
Comments on Facebook will be logged and considered throughout the master planning process.
Why is redevelopment of Parkside and Mercury Court happening?
Changes in federal funding guidelines for affordable housing is driving redevelopment for that housing across the country. Currently, affordable housing across the country, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, needs more than $26 billion in repairs.
Because adequate funding has not been appropriated by Congress to maintain affordable housing, a new program, titled Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), has been instituted. RAD provides affordable housing authorities like the Murfreesboro Housing Authority the ability to enter into long-term contracts that facilitate the financing of improvements through public and private debt and equity in order to reinvest in affordable housing. (Source: https://www.hud.gov/RAD)
What happens once the master plan is complete?
After the master plan is developed and adopted, MHA will apply for funding to rebuild Parkside and Mercury Court. If funding is obtained, Parkside will be rebuilt first, replacing the 46 homes, and a later phase will develop the 130 new homes on the Mercury Court property. Currently, there are 74 single-family and duplex homes at Mercury Court.
Plans call for the 46 families currently living at Parkside to relocate temporarily to Mercury Court. During that time, Parkside and a portion of Mercury Court will be torn down. Once housing at Oakland Court I and II is finished, all residents of Mercury Court will relocate to Oakland Court. A projected timeline calls for Oakland Court homes to be complete by December 2022.
At Parkside, funding requirements mean that the apartments there will be replaced one-for-one.
Funding for the Mercury Park master plan and new construction, if it is obtained, will be by secured loans and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits issued by the Tennessee Housing Development Agency.
Mercury Court will be funded differently than Parkside; Mercury Court will not be subsidized but will have income limits if tax credits are attached.
This multi-phase, multi-year effort will result in the city's affordable housing being completely redeveloped and replaced, if enough funding can be secured. Care has been taken to replace the housing in phases, so residents have a place to live while construction occurs. Currently at Oakland Court, ground is being cleared and foundations are poured for new affordable housing there following a 2019 master planning process that drew strong interest from residents and the public at large. An additional 74 affordable homes are being added at Oakland Court, in addition to replacing the 76 homes already there.
About the Murfreesboro Housing Authority
The Murfreesboro Housing Authority is a quasi-governmental entity that began in 1950 to provide affordable housing for low-income families. The mission of the Murfreesboro Housing Authority is to provide decent, safe and sanitary housing in good repair for eligible families in a
manner that promotes serviceability, economy, efficiency and stability of the developments; and to utilize all available resources to maximize the social and economic opportunities of its residents. All affordable housing in Murfreesboro is managed by MHA. Affordable housing is rented, with
residents paying 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities. The MHA is governed by a five-member Board of Directors appointed by the Mayor of Murfreesboro.