East Columbia Housing Redevelopment


The City of Columbia is located along I-65 just 30 miles south of Nashville and less than an hour’s drive to the Alabama line. The city is the economic and cultural hub for health care, higher education, banking, retail, and entertainment for the South Central Tennessee region.  Like many Tennessee communities, Columbia has older historic neighborhoods that offer redevelopment promise. City leaders have been systematically working to redevelop these assets during the last decade to better serve existing residents and meet the need for attainable housing for residents.   

Columbia has a long history of redevelopment, starting with its designation as one of Tennessee’s first Main Street communities in the early 1980’s. Downtown and neighborhood redevelopment efforts have continued each decade through the city’s leadership in concert with public and private sector partners. In 2008, Columbia was one of the first communities to create and adopt a city-wide comprehensive plan that was a major catalyst for downtown improvements. As part of the plan, Columbia saw an opportunity to add a housing and neighborhood revitalization component that identified housing located in contiguous historic neighborhoods in need of revitalization. The East Columbia neighborhood was identified for the initial focus, as the area had lagged behind the rest of the city’s growth and prosperity.

That forethought by city officials allowed Columbia to receive a $519,000 HUD Neighborhood Stabilization Grant for East Columbia in 2009. As part of this grant, the City of Columbia reorganized its housing authority as the Columbia Housing and Redevelopment Corporation (CHRC). This allowed the city and the expanded agency to purchase abandoned properties in distressed neighborhoods and rebuild four new affordable homes in their place. The grant also allowed CHRC to offer first-time homebuyer education courses and down payment assistance to eligible homebuyers. The reorganization of the housing authority also positioned the city to utilize a broader array of redevelopment tools including Tax Increment Financing (TIF).

In 2011, Columbia officials collaborated with CHRC to complete the East Columbia Development and Urban Renewal Plan that captured the vision for the neighborhood and identified goals and objectives for achieving that vision. The first goal of the plan was to eliminate the condition of blight, blighting influences and inappropriate land uses existing within the project area. The accompanying objective called for the demolition of abandoned properties and for city leaders to seek cooperation from owners of substandard housing to improve or demolish the structures.

Since the adoption of the plan, the community has implemented several measures to revitalize East Columbia including clean-up events, construction of new single family homes, community policing programs and continuing homebuyer education courses. Partners including CHRC, Habitat for Humanity, People Helping People Together Inc., the Maury County Boys and Girls Club and local churches have completed improvement projects with the city that have created new pride and energy to improve the neighborhood.

East Columbia CDBG Neighborhood Revitalization Project 

In 2014, city leaders formally designated East Columbia as a redevelopment district. The project area consisted of primarily low-income, minority residents and had habitually suffered from vacant and abandoned properties, high crime rates, and economic disinvestment. Housing, public infrastructure, and businesses had deteriorated over time as private investment and development moved to other areas of the city.

Columbia officials decided to continue efforts to eliminate blighted properties in the East Columbia neighborhood. The Columbia CDBG Neighborhood Revitalization Project built on the participation of over 100 community members that attended a visioning workshop as part of the East Columbia Development and Urban Renewal Plan development process. This past involvement created support for voluntary property owner participation in future CDBG project activities.

In 2014, Columbia officials applied for and received TNECD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to remove 30 vacant and dilapidated structures in East Columbia through the voluntary program. The city also implemented zoning regulations that encouraged the construction of single family homes in the locations where structures were removed and used CDBG funding and local labor to improve the connectivity of the neighborhood to the downtown commercial district.

Improvements to local parks along with community-based initiatives led by the Columbia Police Department have improved relationships, community services and safety concerns in the neighborhood. In order to address the high crime rate in East Columbia, the Police Department applied for and was awarded a Targeted Community Crime Reduction Program grant from the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs that supported the creation of community partnerships to support a three-prong approach to crime reduction: prevention, enforcement and officer intervention. The Police Chief attributes much of the reduced crime activity through this grant project to the reversing of the “broken window theory” which maintains that neighborhood decay encourages small crimes such as vandalism and public drinking which eventually leads to more serious offenses.

As neighborhood conditions improve and homeownership in East Columbia increases, more individuals and families are moving back to the neighborhood and businesses are increasing.

Community and Economic Impact

The Columbia CDBG Neighborhood Revitalization Project greatly assisted in the newly established vitality of East Columbia. CDBG funding has been a major catalyst in enhancing community livability and providing economic development opportunities to residents of the neighborhood. Successful public and private community revitalization partnerships are increasing safety and attractiveness, reducing neighborhood crime and creating new reinvestment opportunities for East Columbia residents, partners and investors.   

The removal of empty, blighted properties is making the way for the construction of new single-family homes and potential multifamily developments. CDBG grant guidelines allow property owners to build back on the lots immediately or if sold to other parties, guidelines call for a five-year lien on cleared lots. In Columbia’s rapidly growing market, future housing construction is projected to occur rapidly when the waiting period is completed and the lots can be sold to new owners. City officials report significant single family housing construction on lots adjacent to properties where distressed structures have been removed through the project. The City is also continuing their successful partnership with CHRC to construct three new workforce housing units on lots prepared through the project in fiscal year 2018. Columbia and CHRC are planning to construct three more homes in fiscal year 2019 as well. Four year project results include:

Dilapidated structures removed 38
New building permits issued for adjacent properties 36
Total redevelopment value of permitted adjacent housing  (36 permitted single family structures @ permit value of buildings) $3,164,883
Total new annual property tax from permitted adjacent housing (City of Columbia projections ) $35,042
Total community organizations involved (Housing and redevelopment agency, local non-profits, local churches) 7
2016 – 2017 Total Crime Decrease/Reduction Statistics 3.40%

Project Funding

TNECD Community Development Block Grant  $315,000
City of Columbia Match  $51,280
Total Neighorhood Revitalization Project Funding (Projections for federal grant funding, local investments ) $366,280

Project Leadership and Partners

City of Columbia – City Manager – Project Contact
Columbia Housing and Redevelopment Corporation – Executive Director – Project Contact
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
South Central Tennessee Development District
Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs
Maury County Habitat for Humanity
People Helping People, INC
Advent Development Corporation
Maury County Boys and Girls Club
First Missionary Baptist Church
American Association of Retired People (AARP)
Columbia Main Street
For project information contact the City of Columbia.


TNECD Community Development Programs 

Community and neighborhood development is a fundamental component of successful economic and development. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development provides administration for state and federal Community Development programs.

The TNECD Community Development Block Grant program provides grant funding for community and economic development projects including water and sewer system improvements and extensions, owner-occupied housing rehabilitation, health and safety projects, and commercial façade improvements.

For more information visit TNECD Community and Rural Development.