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Knoxville College’s $150 million renewal plan to include affordable housing

Knoxville City Council is expected to sign off on Knoxville-Knox County Planning’s vote May 17.

By Gwendolyn Ducre

Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 7:39 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 15, 2022 at 9:14 PM EDT

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – The 147-year-old historically black college Knoxville College was on the cusp of a new chapter as leaders unveil their 10-year revitalization plan.

On Friday, Interim President Leonard Adams told WVLT News the Knoxville-Knox County Planning Committee accepted its request to rezone to a medium density residential and office space. The rezoning would allow the college to develop an affordable housing project along the west side of College Street, south side of Mississippi Avenue and the east side of Ridgebrook Lane.

Adams said the project would consist of 72 apartment units across 11 acres designed for low-income families. The ideal residential candidate would be expected to enroll in the school’s hybrid associate’s degree program as well as learn a trade skill at Tennessee College of Applied Technology.

The hope was that allocated federal dollars that support affordable housing developments would fully fund the school’s apartment community.ADVERTISEMENT

“We’re really going back in a page in history of being a more inclusive environment to our community that we sit,” Adams said.

The approval comes as a victory for a college that has seen its share of setbacks over the last few decades. Knoxville College lost its accreditation in 1997, at the time leaders only had a $500,000 budget, enrollment dropped from thousands to just a couple of students and buildings were standing on their last leg.

In a year, Adams reported the school doubled its budget with the help of donations, partnerships and other streams of revenue. The idea was through the affordable housing project, projected increased enrollment numbers and continued partnerships, the school would reach its goal.

According to Knoxville College’s Master Plan, the project was only a piece of a moving puzzle. Adams told WVLT News the school was working with The University of Tennessee’s Higher Education PhD program to attempt to earn full accreditation by 2023, which would allow the private HBCU to receive federal education funding.ADVERTISEMENT

The school was gearing up for its spring graduation. Three of its 25 enrolled students will be graduating May 7.

“I am equally excited to inform you that we have also re-established our endowment accounts and have made a total investment in the amount of $250,000.00. If you are interested in donating to our endowment, please reach out to me at the College,” Adams announced its the school’s newsletter. “Lastly, this action has also positioned and strengthened Knoxville College as a business. Knoxville College approved the interest sale of the Pilot College Station partnership to the sum of $2.7M. The Pilot College Station has been a lifeline for years and has continued to produce, particularly in this time of need.”

Knoxville City Council was expected to sign off on Knoxville-Knox County Planning’s vote May 17.

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