The long-vacant building that sits at 400 E. Unaka Ave. was once a gutted eyesore off Interstate 26, but the structure has been given a complete facelift as part of the latest project from Eastern Eight Community Development Corporation.
“Unaka Place,” a three-unit apartment building, was opened Monday during a special open house celebrating the project’s completion. For many in attendance, seeing the newly renovated space transformed from a gutted shell to a brightly colored addition to the neighborhood was a long time coming.
“If you’re from this area, you would always drive by and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would do something with that house?’ I guess it was almost a dream come true that I would get to be that person that would actually be in a place where we could get a hold of the building and it just kind of happened as a stroke of fate,” Easter Eight executive director Retha Patton said.
The new building, which includes a four-bedroom apartment and two two-bedroom apartments, was funded through a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant, and will be offered as affordable housing for deserving low- and moderate-income citizens.
The Neighborhood Stabilization Program was established in order to help bring stability to neighborhoods hard-hit by foreclosures or substandard buildings. There are two census tracts in Johnson City that Eastern Eight has worked in, either demolishing and building new or completely renovated the structures on eight different lots. The Tennessee Housing Development Agency, city of Johnson City and First Tennessee Development District all have been involved in the oversight and effective use of the NSP funds that have flowed to Eastern Eight.
Patton said the structure will be a much-needed addition to the community.
“We could’ve easily torn it down and spent a lot less money rebuilding housing, but I think it was an investment to the community — it was an investment to the housing stock — that we restore this home to blend with the neighborhood and be an asset to the neighborhood,” she said.
Several community leaders and dignitaries were in attendance at Monday’s open house, including U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, Johnson City vice mayor Phil Carriger, Johnson City director of community development Steve Baldwin and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development field director Ed Ellis.