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Nashville, Tennessee: Remediating Concentrated Poverty to Promote an Integrated Society

Low-angle aerial photograph taken at dusk of two- and three-story townhouses.
Photograph of the front façades of a 2-story and three 3-story townhouses.
Photograph taken at dusk of a street lined with townhouses.
Photograph of townhouses along the woonerf.
Photograph of a living room with a couch and two chairs in the foreground and a kitchen with a high table and stools in the background.


Home >Case Studies >Nashville, Tennessee: Remediating Concentrated Poverty to Promote an Integrated Society


Nashville, Tennessee: Remediating Concentrated Poverty to Promote an Integrated Society


In 2014, the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) in Nashville, Tennessee, released a plan to revitalize Cayce Place, the city's largest public housing community, which was developed between 1941 and 1956. The 2017 Envision Cayce specific plan addresses 85 acres of concentrated poverty that includes 716 Cayce Place units, 252 units supported by Section 8 project-based vouchers, and 75 unassisted units. The plan calls for a mixed-use district containing 2,509 housing units, retail space, institutional buildings, and green spaces. The residences will be mixed income; the Cayce Place and Section 8 project-based voucher units will be replaced, and workforce and market-rate units will be added. After MDHA completed construction of Envision Cayce's first phase, consisting of units supported by Section 8 project-based rental assistance (PBRA), MDHA initiated the mixed-income phase of the development with the construction of Kirkpatrick Park. The 94-unit development received the National Association of Home Builders' 2020 Multifamily Community of the Year Award for reimagining subsidized housing to reflect and integrate the surrounding community.

Kirkpatrick Park

Kirkpatrick Park consists of 15 two- and three-story buildings that contain one- to four-bedroom townhouses. Thirty-six apartments are PBRA units for families earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) and were marketed first to Cayce Place residents. The buildings also contain 20 workforce units for households earning between 60 and 120 percent of AMI and 38 market-rate units with no income restrictions. All units, regardless of rent level, feature quartz countertops, stainless steel ENERGY STAR® appliances, and an entry system with smart locks and surveillance cameras.

Kirkpatrick Park was constructed in four phases on a portion of a 7-acre green space of the same name that MDHA acquired from the city in a land swap. Because MDHA did not need to demolish any buildings to construct Kirkpatrick Park, Cayce Place residents were relocated only once, from their previous units to their new homes. The first residents arrived in 2019 after the first two phases were completed, which consist of eight buildings, a small park, and a woonerf, a street that prioritizes the pedestrian experience over automobile movement; the final phases encompass seven buildings and a larger park. The buildings face abutting streets and the woonerf, framing interior parking lots from public view.

With the construction of Kirkpatrick Park, MDHA upgraded public infrastructure to better serve existing residents and attract new families. For example, the city required MDHA to rebuild the combined storm and sanitary sewer system as separate, environmentally safe systems. Because a community survey revealed that slightly less than 70 percent of public housing residents have internet access, MDHA reconfigured the development's infrastructure so that residents could choose from three service providers. Other offsite improvements include new sidewalks and onstreet parking that promote safer streets and accommodate guests to the community.

The development cost $24.3 million, with more than half of the cost financed through a Federal Housing Administration loan (table 1). Funds from the Metropolitan Government of Nashville capital improvements budget covered infrastructure upgrades for Kirkpatrick Park. The development also included a land swap with the Metropolitan Department of Parks and Recreation.

Table 1: Kirkpatrick Park Financing

Federal Housing Administration loan $13,630,000
MDHA equity 8,960,000
HOME Investment Partnerships Program funds 500,000
Metropolitan Government of Nashville capital improvements budget 1,240,000
Total $24,330,000

Kirkpatrick Park as an Edge to Envision Cayce

The Envision Cayce specific plan divides the planning area into four subdistricts — neighborhood center, neighborhood core, neighborhood edge, and civic — that determine the mass, scale, and intensity of development. As part of an edge subdistrict, Kirkpatrick Park's architecture reflects that of the two adjacent neighborhoods, Historic Edgefield and Historic East End. Like the nearby single-family residences, the townhouse units in Kirkpatrick Park are distinct, varying in color, materials, roofline, and height. The front façades of the townhouses feature a mix of balconies and porches. Kirkpatrick Park has the lowest density of the Envision Cayce specific plan and serves as a transition area from the historic neighborhoods to the more active commercial area in the neighborhood center and the multifamily residences in the neighborhood core.

The neighborhood core subdistrict contains most of the housing units for the planning area as well as strategically placed neighborhood retail services, such as cafés and dry cleaners, in buildings that typically have two to four stories. The neighborhood center subdistrict places additional housing above ground-floor commercial space on a main street corridor lined with full-service restaurants, offices, and entertainment. Buildings will have at least 2 stories and rise to 6 and 12 stories in certain blocks.

Connecting these subdistricts is the civic subdistrict, a 20-acre campus of community service buildings within a linear park, added in response to public comments made during the community engagement process. The campus consists of a cluster of civic and institutional buildings near Kirkpatrick Park. The first project constructed on the campus, the Explore! Community School, was completed a few months after the first residents moved into Kirkpatrick Park. Like the other planned buildings, which include a library and community center, the school fosters interaction among families of different incomes within and outside the Envision Cayce specific plan area. Among the campus buildings are planned passive and active open spaces that preserve the natural topography and scenic views of Downtown Nashville. This area includes an 11-acre green space, an amphitheater, a plaza, sports facilities, and a trail that connects to the Cumberland River south of the plan area.

Since Kirkpatrick Park opened in the summer of 2019, MDHA has constructed 3 residential developments in the neighborhood core containing 299 housing units, approximately 20 percent of the specific plan's total housing. Mosley on 6th contains 3 four-story buildings providing 50 PBRA, 24 workforce, and 22 market-rate units. Manning Place consists of a 4-story apartment building and 13 townhouses to provide 45 PBRA, 15 workforce, and 41 market-rate units. The most recent project is Red Oak Flats, which provides 45 PBRA, 15 workforce, and 42 market-rate units. In 2022, MDHA will begin construction on another mixed-income property, which will be followed by a grocery store in the neighborhood center.



The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.