Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis has wrapped construction on the 21-home Bearwater Park neighborhood, a subdivision built from scratch.
New streetlights and sidewalks paved the way for an ambitious construction project that relied on thousands of volunteers and the aid of President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter.
The Carters designated the Uptown site, what was once a blighted and crime-ridden plot, as their 33rd Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project.
Their week-long visit in late August drew international attention to Memphis’ local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, said Dwayne Spencer, CEO and president with Habitat for Humanity’s of Greater Memphis.
On Nov. 5, homeowners and supporters gathered to dedicate the homes and begin the move-in process.
“The energy was fulfillment, excitement and accomplishment,” Spencer said. “The homeowners see this as the end to all of the physical work related to the homes and actually getting the keys.”
The newest residents of Bearwater Park range from families to single people, immigrants to lifelong Memphians.
Habitat for Humanity partners with first-time homebuyers who display a demonstrated need, the ability to repay a zero-interest mortgage, and the willingness to attend a multi-week homebuyer education course and put in nearly 400 hours of work to actually construct their home and the homes of others.
New homeowner Timeka Seldon (pink shirt) with her mother, daughter and granddaughter.
“It was really special in that we were able to go in, take a raw piece of land from that state and create a full community,” said Spencer.
Oasis of Hope church donated the land south of Cedar Avenue and between Third and Seventh streets to Habitat for Humanity.
Spencer said that partnership is not yet over with Oasis of Hope willing to donate more lots near Bearwater Park for further development.
The construction project’s benefits go beyond the subdivison’s boundaries. During the Carter Work Project, Habitat for Humanity volunteers also completed 10 beautification projects near Bearwater Park and six aging-in-place projects around the county. An act as simple as planting flowers or adding a fresh coat of paint made the whole neighborhood brighter.
"That project supported additional beautification and aging-in-place efforts before and after the August build week, helping a total of 99 local homeowners have new or improved places to call home," said Spencer.
Many neighbors who were not part of the Habitat for Humanity’s formal project in Uptown were inspired to clean up their houses and yards, he said.
“It migrates to the other neighbors who take pride, and it spreads throughout a community,” he said. “We can't do community revitalization in a holistic, lasting manner by just building houses from the ground up.”