Feds applaud Avondale housing program with $29.5M

3:33 PM, Dec 13, 2012
Written by Mark Curnutte

“AVONDALE — Federal officials, impressed by efforts already under way to improve the quality of life in this strategic Cincinnati neighborhood, will show Avondale the money today.

The Community Builders Inc. will receive a $29.5 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to renovate five distressed affordable housing projects on Reading Road in Avondale.

It will preserve or create 318 units of affordable housing and provide social program assistance to every person living in those apartments.

It will also look to expand the Avondale Town Center at Reading Road and Forest Avenue and add muscle to efforts already driven by the Center for Closing the Health Gap to bring in additional retail and return a grocery store to Avondale. The last one, Aldi’s, moved out in November 2008, creating a food desert.

The Choice Neighborhoods program awards – Avondale is one of just four nationally – will be announced by HUD at 11 a.m. today.

“This is the kind of work we excel at,” said Terri Hamilton Brown, Community Builders’ Midwest regional director in Chicago. The nonprofit last week announced it had purchased the five properties, among 19 in Cincinnati that have fallen into foreclosure and disrepair.

In addition to rehabbing the five existing buildings, the developer plans to build new housing near the intersection of Burnet and Forest avenues.

The Gabriel’s Place ministry, housed in a former Episcopal church, will receive Community Builders’ help to expand its urban gardening and farmers market programs and upgrade its kitchen to industrial code, Brown said.

The housing program will also add to a development and social program foundation already in place and run by several agencies: the Avondale Comprehensive Development Corp., Cincinnati Public Schools and the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati, the latter to provide case management and connect residents with employment, health and civic programs.

Choice Neighborhoods starts with the belief that housing is the foundation on which all people build their lives, first stabilizing themselves and their families, HUD says.

The five apartment complexes to be renovated are Crescent Court, 3719 Reading Road; Alameda Apartments, 3580-86 Reading; the Poinciana, 3522 Reading; Maple Apartments, 631 Maple Ave.; and Somerset Manor, 802-814 Blair Ave. Small health and safety projects are expected to begin as early as the first quarter of 2013.

“We’re excited that HUD believes in the vision that Avondale and TCB laid out in our application,” said Ozie Davis, executive director of the Avondale Comprehensive Development Corp. “The transformation of Avondale moves forward.”

Avondale is one of three Cincinnati-area communities, along with Price Hill and Covington, that have benefited from the United Way of Greater Cincinnati-led Place Matters program started in 2007. Each community receives roughly $430,000 a year from a pool of funding agencies. HUD recognized the existence of the place-specific, comprehensive approach in Avondale.

“These grants to Cincinnati will turn the page to a more promising future for the families who currently live in this housing and the surrounding community and for future generations,” Antonio Riley, HUD Midwest Regional Administrator said Thursday in HUD’s 11 a.m. press release. “Choice Neighborhoods promises to open doors to more opportunity.”

The $29.5 million federal investment of Avondale’s grant will generate an additional $45 million in private investments and commitments from local jurisdictions and partners, HUD says.

Added HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, “HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative supports local visions for how to transform high-poverty, distressed communities into neighborhoods of opportunity. We’re emphasizing a comprehensive approach to revitalizing neighborhoods by considering the totality of a community with regard to health, safety, education, jobs and quality housing in mixed-income neighborhoods.”

In addition to Cincinnati’s Avondale bid, the Choice Neighborhoods program will help transform distressed communities in; San Antonio, Seattle and Tampa.

The four winning applications were selected from nine finalists.

The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is one of the signature programs of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, which supports innovative and inclusive strategies that bring public and private partners together to help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

The Enquirer has documented the neighborhood’s changes and challenges since March in its series “Saving Avondale.””

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