Revitalization of City Neighborhood
City of Huntsville officials were on hand for the dedication of the Spring Branch community on Thursday, November 14th at 11:30 am. In 2012, local non-profit Neighborhood Concepts, Inc. spearheaded a revitalization of an aging apartment complex that resulted in 70 renovated affordable apartment homes, a community splash park and a community garden. “We are pleased to have been able to be the catalyst for revitalization in this underserved area of Huntsville,” stated Phil Dotts, Chairman of Neighborhood Concepts (NCI).
The revitalization of Spring Branch represents a $7,800,000 investment in the City of Huntsville financed in part from the sale of housing tax credits administered by Alabama Housing Finance Authority to PNC Bank as well as a conventional first mortgage of $1,667,000 from PNC. The City of Huntsville acting through its Community Development Department provided $690,000 in subordinate debt as well. “Spring Branch represents another opportunity for the City’s Community Development Department to leverage funds to increase the amount of affordable housing available in Huntsville,” stated Ken Benion, Director of the City’s Community Development Department. According to Benion, “Spring Branch also represents an opportunity to partner with Neighborhood Concepts, who has an outstanding record of providing affordable housing in our community. We are very proud of the work done here and look forward to additional developments in the future.” In addition to quality apartment 2, 3 and 4 bedroom units with affordable rents ranging from $525 for a 2 bedroom unit to $650 for a 4 bedroom unit, Spring Branch also boasts extensive common amenities such as a large clubhouse with a computer learning center with wifi access. “In addition to providing quality housing, it was important to us that we include amenities that would be beneficial to our residents, such as the learning center where children can come in the afternoon to access the internet, work on homework or just relax with friends,” stated Mary Ellen Judah, NCI’s Executive Director.
NCI received a $20,000 grant from the Jane K. Lowe Foundation to build a community garden on the property as well. The community gardening program at Spring Branch was initiated by the City of Huntsville’s Operation Green Team last summer when OGT provided 10 raised bed garden boxes and planting materials for Spring Branch residents. Through the Lowe Foundation grant, NCI was able to construct a formal garden space with additional garden boxes and an irrigation system. Food Bank of North Alabama staff volunteer their time and expertise providing technical assistance to novice growers. “I’m most proud of the new garden space and the impact it will have on our community,” said Judah. “Not only will this urban garden provide access to healthy foods for neighborhood residents, but we hope it will also instill a sense of community and pride.”