03 Dec Seeing is Believing: HUD Secretary Ben Carson Visits Envision Cayce
2019 has been a groundbreaking year for MDHA, particularly in regards to Envision Cayce’s progress, and leadership on a national level has noticed. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson came to see for himself in November, and while the well-built, beautiful units he toured at Kirkpatrick Park Apartments are beautiful, perhaps the most impactful part of his visit were the testimonies he heard firsthand from residents who had moved to brand new units through Envision Cayce.
The planning process for Envision Cayce began in March 2013 and focused on revitalizing Nashville’s largest subsidized housing property. Master planning concluded in July 2014 with a meeting comprised of Cayce Place residents and community members. A mixed-income, mixed-use community, the Envision Cayce Master Plan calls for more than 2,000 units and ensures a one-for-one replacement of existing affordable units, while adding new affordable, workforce and market-rate housing. Envision Cayce outlines the demolition of the properties’ aging structures built between 1941 and 1954. The Plan also calls for several acres of active green space and amenities such as a pharmacy, grocery, school, library and retailers.
Upon arriving in Nashville, Carson toured two units at Kirkpatrick Park Apartments, which is Envision Cayce’s second new residential construction and first mixed-income community. The development has a total of 94 apartments, of which 20 are workforce, 36 are subsidized and 38 are market-rate. All units have market-rate amenities and enhanced security features including video doorbells, which allow the tenant to see who is at their door from their cell phone. MDHA Executive Director Jim Harbison led the tour, answering Carson’s questions about the apartments, development and Envision Cayce Master Plan.
Following the tour, Carson spoke with Pauline Hunter, who made the move from current Cayce Place to a brand new apartment on the property. Since moving to her new apartment, Hunter has married, bought a car and landed a new job that allows her to give back to others in the community.
“I used to be homeless,” Hunter said. “My life has changed so much for the better since I moved into my new home here at Cayce Place.”
After speaking with Hunter, Carson reiterated his support for mixed-income communities like those being built through Envision Cayce.
“When you can have mixed-income communities, a lot of people from various areas get to know each other,” Carson said. “It helps to establish a community. I think Nashville is actually going to end up being a shining star for the entire country.”
After the tour, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee joined Carson, MDHA staff and other local leaders and officials for breakfast and a discussion on housing. During the breakfast, MDHA resident Themetria shared her feelings since making the move from current Cayce Place to her new unit at Kirkpatrick Park Apartments in summer 2019.
“I love it. My kids love it. I feel that this is home,” she said. “I love sitting on my porch and seeing the greenery. The kids love the balcony. We like to gather and play cards and board games out there.”
Carson’s visit to Nashville not only gave the HUD Secretary a chance to see for himself how the Envision Cayce Master Plan is unfolding, but also verified to internal and external stakeholders that the development is moving in a promising direction. While support and validation from national leadership is vital, MDHA will continue to focus on what is most important and arguably the impetus for the entire Envision Cayce process – the needs of current residents, the advocacy of the community and the progress that will ultimately help build a better Nashville for all.