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Honoring the Past, Building the Future

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Honoring the Past, Building the Future

Hard Bargain Mount Hope Redevelopment

In 1866, a freed slave named Harvey McLemore purchased 15 acres of land in the central Tennessee town of Franklin. The transaction proved far from easy, but McLemore persevered – and kept things in perspective. He named his newly acquired tract “Hard Bargain” and built his home on the property. McClemore subdivided his acreage in 1875, and Hard Bargain was on its way to becoming a thriving African-American neighborhood.

Some 125 years later, America’s Sun Belt migration brought rapid growth to middle Tennessee. Franklin boomed, becoming one of the most sought-after places to live in the United States.

Meanwhile, Scott Roley, a minister and Hard Bargain homeowner, joined with other Franklin clergymen to create Empty Hands Fellowship, an interfaith men’s group focused on bringing together people from all walks of life. The group’s first community service project was helping Roley’s neighbor, a retired teacher named Carrie Wilson, repair her distressed home. Later, the group helped save the home before it slipped into foreclosure. After Miss Wilson became ill and moved to Alabama to live with a relative, the property served as transitional housing for single mothers moving out of public housing. When the need for additional costly repairs arose at Miss Wilson’s former residence, the difficult decision was made to tear down the property. The lot currently serves as the site of Hard Bargain’s community garden.

The volunteers quickly realized there was more to be done. Franklin’s explosive growth had created unique challenges in Hard Bargain. Skyrocketing housing costs meant that hardworking people whose families had lived in the neighborhood for generations could no longer afford to buy homes. Many other residents were low-income families or seniors on fixed incomes who simply did not possess the money, skills or physical health to keep their homes in good repair.

The volunteers decided to take their efforts to the next level, and in 2004 the nonprofit Hard Bargain Mount Hope Redevelopment Corporation, Inc. (HBMHR) was born, obtaining 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in 2006. Hard Bargain Mount Hope Redevelopment’s mission is to impact lives and preserve history by restoring existing homes, building quality affordable housing, and revitalizing generational neighborhoods. Ongoing community input and involvement were sought from the start and proved vital to the formulation of a professionally prepared redevelopment plan.

New Hard Bargain Mount Hope Redevelopment homes are built by paid professionals, although workers in the building trades may donate their time. Two homes have been built and sold to qualifying residents at affordable prices. A third was recently completed, and the foundation of the fourth has been laid. All new construction reflects the historic neighborhood’s appearance. In fact, the first home Hard Bargain Mount Hope Redevelopment built won a preservation award for new construction from the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County in 2007.

Shanita Beech, the single mother who purchased HBMHR’s second new home, explains, “I grew up in Franklin and wanted to buy a house here, but could not find one in my price range. It is a blessing for me and my boys to own a home. I appreciate Hard Bargain Mount Hope Redevelopment making this possible for us.”

The HBMHR Rehab Program, formally launched in 2009, relies on community volunteers to repair and restore the homes of elderly and low-income residents. Materials and supplies are donated or purchased with financial contributions. Over 20 homes have been repaired with the help of Hard Bargain Mount Hope Redevelopment volunteers, including several that were damaged in the floods that struck middle Tennessee last May.

Executive Director Brant Bousquet, the nonprofit’s only full-time employee, is pleased with the group’s accomplishments and looking toward the future. “Our work isn’t always easy, but it’s always rewarding,” Bousquet says.  “I think Harvey McLemore would be proud of our efforts.”

Visit www.HardBargain.org to learn more about Hard Bargain Mount Hope Redevelopment.

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