Breaking ground on new opportunity

Ground was broken last week on a new neighborhood in Blount County that will give deserving families the opportunity to own their own home.

Foothills Community Development Corp. and Habitat for Humanity broke ground on the Norwood Village subdivision just off Morganton Road on May 27.

Business and community leaders turned out to praise Habitat for Humanity and FCDC for partnering on the initiative and to thank the Sterling Engineering family for creating the opportunity.

“Having this partnership come together makes it easier. We want to thank you for working together,” Maryville city manager Greg McClain said. “There are lot of families who may not have the opportunity to have a home, and you provide it.”

Tony Gibbons with Habitat for Humanity said the people present at the groundbreaking were a cross section of Blount County. “We started with 42 lots trying to make this work. Every lot represents a family with a safe place to live.”

Gibbons was excited about how the project could help families. “They’ll have a place to grow their families,” he said. “How can you not be excited?”

Gibbons said the homes will list at about $80,000. The property accounts for about $25,000 of that for each lot and that will be paid back to Charlie and Kelly Sterling, owners of the property. They are paid as lots are sold. “We negotiated with the Sterlings to incorporate the land and development costs into one price. That locked in the price and allowed us to really plan for the future.”

East Tennessee Medical Center is building the first house.

Ron German, CEO with East Tennessee Medical Group, said his nurses, doctors and staff were excited about helping build a home. “We’re just grateful to be part of this endeavor,” he said.

German said the staff, nurses and doctors take their commitment seriously. “This is part of our commitment to work and help the community,” he said. “When Habitat approached us, it was an extension of our mission.”

German said more than 200 employees from East Tennessee Medical Group want to volunteer. “Our problem is going to be scaling it down, we have so many volunteers.”

Lynne Musick with Joseph Construction said the Norwood Village project is a partnership between Foothills Development Corp. and Habitat for Humanity. “Habitat is going to build half and FCDC is going to build half.”

Musick said Joseph will be helping Habitat on one of the houses. “We’re excited to provide help on this project,” she said. “Our 100th (Habitat) house will be built on this property.”

Charles Sterling said his company had worked with Habitat years ago and when Sterling Engineering bought a new office building on the edge of a large tract of property off Morganton Road, they didn’t need the land, but the owner wouldn’t just sell them the building.

“We had the property and didn’t know what to do with it,” he said.

FCDC and Habitat worked with the Sterling family and negotiated to build homes on the property. “They’ll pay us for the land as they close on the lots,” he said.

Derick Jones, president of Sterling Engineering, coordinated the project and said the idea was to create a neighborhood and homes that are functional and aesthetically pleasing, “something that’s pleasing to the eye but affordable and functional.”

Rebecca Long, a FCDC client and a resident in Grandview Place subdivision in a house that FCDC built, said Norwood Village is an opportunity for families to have a home they can afford.

Long said clients have to work on their debt and learn how to manage money and credit. FCDC helps clients then find something that meets their needs but is affordable and then helps by covering such expenses as closing costs, Long said.

“They make it affordable,” she said.

Shannon Dilbeck also lives in a FCDC house and praised the organization for making it possible for families to own a home. “They help you get into a house, and they help you see what you need.”

Dilbeck said that because FCDC helps clients do the homework before the purchase, it benefits the family in the long term. “You know you are going to be able to afford it five years from now,” she said. “FCDC helps you look at the whole picture. You get a good home, and it’s going to be your home in 30 years.”

Kelly Spears, executive director of FCDC, praised Sterling Engineering for their work on the project. “Sterling Engineering did all the work and all we had to do was sit back and let things happen,” he said.

Spears said low-income families living in substandard conditions will have better opportunity because of the Norwood Village project. “All of a sudden, people living five people in a two bedroom apartment will get to have four bedroom home while paying about what they were paying in rent,” he said.

According to the website, Foothills Community Development Corporation (FCDC) was created in 2002 to supplement Blount County Habitat for Humanity’s affordable home building program. As a community development corporation, FCDC has broader authority to not only accommodate families that earned above those that Habitat could serve, but also more freedom to renovate and construct homes for the low income population. Actual construction of the first home was completed in 2005, and since then dozens of new homes have been built throughout the county.

According to, Blount County Habitat for Humanity is an independent, nonprofit, Christian housing ministry. It has served Blount County since 1992 as an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International.

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