Note: This story was last updated at 5:38 p.m. March 6.
Eight of the 10 Applewood Apartments buildings could be demolished, and a new apartment complex could replace them under a plan proposed by an Alabama company.
The project, proposed by Huff Management Company of Opelika, Ala., is a “strong candidate” for a potential tax credit, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark S. Watson said. He said Huff Management has a contract with the present owner, Knoxville attorney Joe Levitt.
The Applewood Apartment buildings have been the subject of long-running disputes with the city, including code violation, demolition, and court hearings in the last several years.
“The Applewood complex has been a target for change as early as 1959, and presently four of the 10 units are considered unfit for habitation,” Watson said in a Wednesday letter to Felita Givens at the Tennessee Housing Development Agency. “The project proposed provides an opportunity to rid the city of this blight that has cost the community hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years in the form of crime, emergency calls for service, fires, and domestic disturbances.”
The Oak Ridge Board of Building and Housing Code Appeals will consider the “unfit for habitation” designation against four of the buildings next week, and electrical and water hookups could be discontinued, Watson said in an e-mail to Oak Ridge City Council members. (Note: The Board of Building and Housing Code Appeals meeting has been rescheduled to 3 p.m. March 21, and an agenda will be available one week before the meeting.)
The new complex could be called Hunter Ridge, and Watson said it could bring several million dollars of new investment into the neighborhood.
He said the THDA was notified of the proposed project in February, and the agency is soliciting comments through the Oak Ridge Mayor’s Office in support of it. Watson is hoping to help generate many letters in support of the project; the letters could be sent to the THDA.
“A first round of consideration will occur in April, with a final decision rendered in July,” Watson said in a letter sent to the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, City Council, and municipal department heads. “As Oak Ridge has always done, we now need to rally around this project.”
While eight of the Applewood buildings would be demolished, Watson said two of them would be vacated, possibly to be demolished later.
He said demolition of four of the buildings could be pushed at the Board of Building and Housing Code Appeals meeting.
“But if the tax credit projects are approved, the private firm would do the work at his expense,” Watson said. “We estimate demolition at $50,000 per building, so this project could be considerable savings to us.”
He said Hunter Ridge could help solve a community problem by redeveloping a part of the city that has declined in recent years. There are four recently developed tax-income credit properties in the area, and the occupancy rate is either 100 percent or there are waiting lists for vacancies as they become available, Watson said.
Oak Ridge was built as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II. About 6,000 of its original, temporary homes—or about half of them—remain, and many of them have become rental houses owned by local and out-of-town landlords.
“Not only would the project represent a significant financial investment, but also provide attractive, new housing for low- and moderate-income residents and young professionals such as nurses and police officers,” Watson told the THDA.