New direction needed for project in vacant Henderson building

Jan. 21, 2013 @ 07:15 PM

Plans for development of a school, community center, shopping and a redevelopment zone in the Flint Hill neighborhood for a tobacco warehouse have crumbled apart.

Tonight at 7 in the Shiloh Baptist Church on College Street, questions and ideas from the community and some city council members will be heard in a “listening post” meeting for Henderson’s Ward 3.

Citizen input helped launch the project known as the Recreational, Educational, Entertainment and Family Center, or REEF Center. Included was a $725,000 redevelopment grant and the 85,000-square foot Zene Street warehouse.

In conjunction with the city’s downtown development commission, tonight’s meeting is hoping to attract ideas and concerns of citizens, according to Brenda Peace-Jenkins, the at-large representative to the city council from the ward.

“When they first started talking about this project, they heard from local residents, to see what their concerns and ideas were,” Peace-Jenkins said. “This will be an opportunity to see if some of those ideas and concerns have changed in the last three years.”

The Henderson REEF lost a $300,000 Main Street Solutions 2010 grant when it timed out in the fall. Project leaders said Henderson Collegiate would have been a major tenant, serving as an anchor for others to join in a development movement.

Peace-Jenkins said that with a $725,000 Golden Leaf Foundation grant still on the table, the time for hitting the reset button on hope was now.

“We are calling it a plan B,” she said.

Councilman Garry Daeke, the Ward 3 representative, said a good gathering of input would include specifics that residents in the area would agree to as services they would support if developed at the Zene Street warehouse location.

“We’re trying to get that input from residents,” Daeke said, “about what can go in there, what would residents need and use. I am looking forward to hearing some ideas of what can be done.”

Peace-Jenkins said that a new developer, not part of the process in the past, will be represented at the meeting, listening to what successful opportunity could be marketed, ready to be tapped into through REEF.

“They will be listening to the people to hear from them, and to see if some of their suggestions are doable,” Peace-Jenkins said.

The meeting is open to residents generally, and a quorum of council members might show up as well. That possibility caused the City of Henderson to announce it as a possible council member gathering, properly announced, that would not include any official business.

Councilwoman Sara Coffey said getting successful development into Flint Hill would be good for the town in several ways.

“Flint Hill has been left alone for a long time, and it would be a good opportunity to see if something proactive might make a difference,” Coffey said. “We need to make some decisions before more grant money disappears.”

Coffey said a success in the Flint Hill neighborhood could serve as a template for other areas of the city in need.

“I am sure people would be interested in it if something can be done that could be emulated elsewhere in the city,” she said. “I admire the motivation for moving ahead, for bringing the city together, bringing in more jobs and better available housing.”

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.