By Melanie Lasoff Levs
It is not often you hear of 1,200 families jostling to live in a newly built 64-unit townhome development. But that is roughly the number of application requests received by Hollyhand Property Management, the group that will be managing the Park at Wood Station. Hollyhand Development and Woodlawn Foundation, a nonprofit organization and Purpose Built Communities network member overseeing the revitalization of Birmingham’s Woodlawn neighborhood, are co-developing the townhome community and plan to begin moving residents in during the summer of 2015.
Why such an outpouring of interest? “There is a drastic need for high quality, well-managed affordable housing in the city of Birmingham and [Jefferson] County,” say Kelleigh Gamble, Director of Real Estate for the Woodlawn Foundation. The Park at Wood Station, consisting of two- and three-bedroom townhomes, will meet that need for eligible residents.
“When the foundation acquired the property and demolished the few blighted structures still standing, there were folks in the surrounding neighborhood still here who had seen the neighborhood at its peak and at its lowest,” say Gamble. “As soon as they heard there would be brand new affordable units in their neighborhood, word spread like wildfire through the whole city.”
Future residents of the Park at Wood Station must meet income and other requirements according to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program’s federal guidelines, so the original applicant pool has been narrowed to approximately 300. Hollyhand hopes to fully lease the 1,700 square foot apartments by the end of 2015, according to Gamble.
The Park at Wood Station is the first phase of a multi-phase mixed-income housing strategy for the Woodlawn neighborhood. The strategy includes plans for market rate single-family homes for purchase in addition to an ongoing homeowner rehabilitation program that will continue to improve the living conditions and quality of life for existing residents, Gamble says. All of this, in addition to the foundation’s efforts to improve education outcomes in the local schools and meet other community wellness needs will move Woodlawn closer to the goal of increasing homeownership among the existing residents and attracting new families to the neighborhood.
“These [townhomes] are brand new in an area of town where there is a huge focus being put on building a high-quality education pipeline, safe and affordable housing and economic development. Parents want to get their children into a good pipeline,” Gamble says. “We want Woodlawn to be their destination.”