Magnolia could see $2.25M boost to low-income housing over next 3 years; Renfroe Street to be extended into Hwy. 79 : KZHE News Blog
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Magnolia could see $2.25M boost to low-income housing over next 3 years; Renfroe Street to be extended into Hwy. 79

by J.D. Bailey on 04/26/22

Magnolia could soon be the recipient of more than $2 million in grant funds to help refurbish and upgrade dozens of low-to-moderate income housing structures in the city over the next three years.

The Magnolia City Council did its part Monday to help with the process, as the local governing body unanimously passed a resolution allowing and supporting the Magnolia Housing Authority to apply for a grant to rehab 180 units for lower-income, low mobility, and disabled citizen housing.

The grant is being applied for in conjunction with the Magnolia branch of BancorpSouth bank. The exact addresses of the housing units were not stated Monday, but the resolution indicated that they were located in a lower-income area of Ward I of Magnolia.

“The housing units are outdated, and are in need of repair or rehabilitation,” read the resolution.

With the passage of the resolution by the City Council, the local housing authority can now advance the project at no cost to the municipality.

“The Housing Authority stands on its own,” said Magnolia Mayor Parnell Vann. “They run under the umbrella of the city, and they are doing this all on their own. The city has not got anything in this.”

The city leader noted that the local BancorpSouth bank branch is assisting in securing the funding. According to bank officials, the local branch is the member bank sponsor of the project. The grant funds will originate from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas, a Texas-based lender that awards millions in affordable housing subsidies every year to communities across the region.

“It’s a lot of money, and it’s a long-term commitment, but it’s absolutely worth it,” said Annette Pate, vice president at BancorpSouth in Magnolia.

In total, Magnolia Housing Authority could see up to $2.25 million invested into local low-income and disabled housing over the next three years.

“This could be huge for our community,” said Jan Hutcheson, executive director of the Magnolia Housing Authority. “It could be up to $750,000 for up to three years.”

Magnolia Alderman Jamie Waller reiterated Hutcheson’s statements and thanked everyone involved in helping provide what could be a multi-million-dollar boost to the city’s affordable housing network.

“This could be really big,” he said.


RENFROE STREET PROJECT

The Magnolia City Council on Monday also addressed local infrastructure at the southeastern tip of the city limits. 

In a resolution passed unanimously by the city board, a dead-end address at 1225 Renfroe Street was approved for purchase by the city. The transaction will help complete a thoroughfare project to extend Renfroe eastward into Fredrick Circle for easier access to U.S. Hwy. 79. The move will also provide better emergency service access to the street, which is currently cut off from any other access roads, according to the resolution.

The purchase price for the half-acre parcel was $5,000. The selling party was Gospel Truth Church.

“It’s a very narrow street -- really not even a street -- on that end,” said Magnolia Mayor Parnell Vann. “It will not only assist (police and fire access), but it will also provide some parking for the church for special Sunday events on our property.”

An older home currently sits at the city’s new Renfroe Street address, but Vann stated Monday that the structure will be removed to make way for the project. The narrow offshoot street sits approximately 100 yards west of Fredrick Circle in Magnolia. The municipal plan calls for the two streets to be connected.

“That (connection) is going to be on South Fredrick,” the mayor added.

Once completed, the small finger of Renfroe will contain an easy access point to Hwy. 79 South, which is located only about a quarter of a mile from the city street as-the-crow-flies.

Fredrick Circle has also been part of a city revitalization effort over the past two years. In 2020, the 2-acre area, which was previously deeded to the city by the Arkansas Commissioner of State Lands, was razed via a controlled burn that cleared for future community projects.

“This will be an added bonus for where Ward I and II meet,” said Vann in his remarks to the Council. "This is going to be a good thing for the area."

In other Magnolia City Council news:

- Columbia County political candidate Allison Fitzgerald spoke briefly Monday to the Council and the attendees at City Hall. The Bussey Community resident is running for Columbia County Assessor. Fitzgerald, who has worked since 2016 in the Columbia County Collector’s Office, is running in the May primary election for the office. The county assessor's job duties include heading property assessments throughout Columbia County.

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