Area forecasts for heavy rainfall could take Tuesday’s historic Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland Inc. groundbreaking from a symbolic dirt tossing to more of an exercise in mudslinging, but — unless the ritualistic ceremony is postponed — it will be the purest mud slung in these parts in the history of family success stories.
As currently planned, Habitat for Humanity volunteers and leaders will be joined by local government representatives and corporate supporters at noon to officially break ground on the widely respected organization’s third exclusive subdivision. To be called Victory Cove, the 27-dwelling Planned Unit Development is to be located on Victory Street just off South Lee Highway.
Habitat’s other subdivisions are Century Village, a 40-plus home development on 20th Street neighboring Blythe-Bower Elementary School, and Southgate Hills, a 30-home project also housed off South Lee Highway. Both Century Village and Southgate Hills are still under development.
Matt Carlson, executive director of the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, projected Century Village should be completed in 2014. Three homes have been built in Southgate Hills and a project completion date has not been confirmed.
A timetable for the PUD development on Victory Street also is uncertain, but the first home is already under construction, Carlson explained.
“Victory Cove will be a PUD development, meaning it will include single-family and multi-family units,” the longtime Habitat leader said. Plans call for 21 units to be single-family, meaning standalone houses. Six will be townhome-like units in three buildings. All units will be owner-occupied.
The subdivision, spread across a 5-acre patch of land that was acquired from a pair of private owners, is the first PUD development launched by the local Habitat affiliate. Because of the PUD’s complexities, the development is being orchestrated through the city of Cleveland, Carlson said.
The Cleveland Municipal Planning Commission and Cleveland City Council have both blessed the project in a series of approvals that are required of any PUD construction.
“We are really excited about this development,” Carlson said. Perhaps with a wipe of his brow and a broad smile, the Habitat leader pointed out the local affiliate is busier than ever in its 22-year history. Tackling three exclusive subdivisions simultaneously is a chunk of construction, especially for an affiliate that is considered to be small among Habitat for Humanity International standards.
Victory Cove, whose naming is a story unto itself, won’t be just about home construction. Habitat crews, volunteers and contractors will be installing sidewalks and a new road to service the subdivision.
“This is going to be another quality development,” Carlson said. The organization’s reference sheet for decent and affordable housing, which is sold to prospective first-time homeowners who contribute some 500 hours of “sweat equity” while also paying a full mortgage, is getting longer and longer.
A group of volunteers from Lee University is now building Habitat’s 100th home in Century Village. Dedication is set for early December.
Carlson didn’t apologize for beaming with pride at the naming of the newest subdivision.
“Victory Cove is one of the most appropriate names imaginable,” he stressed. “That’s because ‘victory’ for us has a lot of meaning. When our partner families move into their new homes, it’s a personal victory for them because they’re taking a step forward in life.”
It’s a victory on other levels, as well. Family members don’t just stand by idly watching volunteers and Habitat core staff constructing their homes. They work shoulder-to-shoulder with the teams swinging hammers, pounding nails, cutting and learning to cut boards, hauling debris, painting, cleaning and whatever else needs to be done toward the completion of a new home.
Future Habitat homeowners also complete a series of training sessions that target budgeting, home finance, home maintenance and others.
Most importantly — a point that is often lost by those unfamiliar with the Habitat for Humanity mission — families are signing papers for home mortgages. Their monthly payments come at zero percent interest, but their incomes are modest so assuming a mortgage is a first-time challenge for the families.
Said Carlson, those are the reasons why “victory” carries a unique meaning among Habitat homeowners.
PUD developments like Victory Cove are becoming more the norm than the exception in bigger cities where Habitat for Humanity is working to enhance family lives while building stronger neighborhoods, Carlson noted.
“A lot of Habitat affiliates are doing this (PUD developments) where land is at more of a premium now than ever before,” he said. “But it’s not just about the land. These types of developments, as with the case with any of our subdivisions, are creating neighborhoods whose residents have closer ties. That’s a part of what we do and why we work with our families to prepare them for homeownership.”
A case in point lies in the fact that Victory Cove will have a neighborhood association, Carlson noted.
“These units are all homeownerships,” he sad. “These are not rentals. Even the townhomes are owner-occupied.”
The thought of a PUD development further excites Carlson because it points to an even closer partnership with Cleveland city government which, he said, has maintained a longstanding relationship with the community organization. One example of the tie is that municipal government donates a tree for every Habitat house that is constructed in Cleveland.
“Mayor [Tom] Rowland and the City Council members have been extremely supportive of all that we are working to do,” Carlson stressed.
Home dedications are often attended by the city mayor and councilmen, as well as Habitat volunteers and leaders. The current Habitat board president is Barry Boettner and the vice president is Tommy Wright, both of whom are scheduled to attend Tuesday’s groundbreaking at Victory Cove.
“Volunteers are always at the heart, and they are the soul, of our success at Habitat,” Carlson said. “I know we’ve said it before, but we will always say it. Our Habitat for Humanity affiliate cannot do what we do without the support of volunteers — individuals, companies, businesses, industries, civic organizations, churches and all faith-based groups, and all others.”
He added, “These are the people who make Habitat a true community organization. They are so very reflective of what giving back is all about. This community and its many, many volunteers contribute to Habitat daily, and we believe we give back through quality, decent and affordable housing, and we bring stronger neighborhoods wherever land is available.”
Carlson called it a “win-win-win” for everybody — new homeowners, volunteers, local government leaders and the community.
Other Habitat notes:
- The Habitat for Humanity ReStore, whose proceeds last year financed three homes in Cleveland and whose retail floor is being doubled with a building expansion, is scheduled to hold its Grand Reopening on Oct. 11.
- Per its name, the Century Village subdivision will host the Habitat affiliate’s 100th home construction whose dedication is set for Dec. 5.
- Habitat’s Victory Cove development is also symbolic of the recycling, or reuse, of land. The property some 40 years ago housed a former Bradley County school building. When the facility was consolidated with other schools, the structure was torn down and a construction company acquired the real estate to be used as a storage yard. These facilities were torn down several years ago. The Tennessee Air Pollution Control Division has reported no signs of remaining asbestos on the property. Second tests will be conducted; if results are positive, any remaining asbestos will be cleaned up as part of the development.
- More Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland announcements are on the way, Carlson noted.