Frayser Community Development Corp. plans headquarters expansion, new home construction

A scrappy community development corporation in Frayser is expanding its headquarters and mission as the Frayser CDC preps to build ten new homes to support the neighborhood.

Frayser CDC Executive Director Steve Lockwood started out as the CDC’s only employee, working only part-time, and now the organization boasts 10 employees.

Founded in 2002,  the Frayser CDC has added new programs and increased its attention to homebuyer education. Its headquarters at  3684 North Watkins Street will see an 800-foot expansion in late 2018.

As a result of impressive growth over the past 16 years that has helped rejuvenate the local community and educate its citizens, the Frayser Community Development Corp. will be expanding its headquarters at 3684 N. Watkins Street later this year.

“It’s been a very nice location for us,” said Lockwood, who added that the CDC has been at its current location for a decade.  “We love the visibility, but it’s getting too crowded.”

The changes will include tearing out the concrete terrace at the back of the building and adding a new community meeting room with its own exterior entrances which will be twice as large as the existing meeting space, 

“That will allow us to do better, nicer and bigger functions,” said Lockwood. “For instance, a couple of years ago we turned down doing free tax service here because we just couldn’t handle it. We’ll make that offer again once we’re up and running.”

The Frayser Community Association, the neighborhood’s volunteer resident association, will hold its meetings there, and the CDC’s homebuyer education classes are expected to grow from 22 people to 35. Many larger community meetings are currently held at the nearby Ed Rice Frayser Community Center, which can sometimes be noisy due to basketball games and loudspeakers.

The existing meeting room will be converted into three new offices.

Rainier Drive in Frayser has been a popular spot for the Frayser CDC to buy and renovate homes in the community. (Houston Cofield)

Triumph Bank is financing the expansion of the building, which was originally purchased with help from the city’s Department of Housing & Community Development. It had formerly been used as real estate office and originally was a Leader Federal bank branch.

The cost of construction is estimated at $110,000. Josh Somes drew up the floor plans, and a general contractor will be selected in the coming months after a bidding process.

Also later this year, the CDC plans to build 10 new homes in the Rugby subdivision of Frayser.

“We’re really excited about it. The subdivision is an older area that’s had a lot of losses through demolition and fire,” said Lockwood. “We think the market is strong. We have the 10 lots for these initial houses, and we’re acquiring more lots on the assumption that we will build more new houses next year.”

Lockwood had hoped to be breaking ground before now, but funding issues have slowed things down a bit.

“We had trouble finding qualified buyers, trouble finding banks that want to loan – all of that has improved significantly in the past year and a half,” said Lockwood.

The new homes will be the first that the CDC has built in about nine years because the market has simply not been strong enough.

“We do it to build houses and put families in them and also to change the whole market and the perception in the neighborhood,” he said.

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Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.