Birmingham competing with more than 40 cities for $30 million federal grants
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama --- The Birmingham Housing Authority's application for one of five federal redevelopment grants of up to $30 million is among 41 others from across the nation submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Birmingham is hoping to get a chunk of $110 million available through HUD's Choice Neighborhoods program. The housing authority is pursuing plans to replace the aging Loveman Village housing community with a new mixed-income community.
The deadline for submitting the application was April 10 and housing officials have said they expect the grants to be awarded by January 2013.
Multiple applications came from several cities, including Philadelphia, Chicago and New Orleans. Some were filed by housing authorities and others by nonprofit organizations and private development companies.
Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Tampa, and San Antonio are among the larger cities applying. Applications also came from smaller places such as Ponchatoula, La., Hamburg, New York, and Kannapolis, N.C.
The only other application filed from Alabama was submitted by the Buhl-based Spates Contracting and Development, which wants to use the funds to build apartments in Scooba, Miss.
Despite the number of applications, Birmingham Housing Authority Executive Director Naomi Truman said she is hopeful Loveman Village will be awarded the grant.
"Competition was a given because there are so many needs out there," Truman said. "We've put our best foot forward and hope for the best."
Choice Neighborhoods is the successor to HUD's Hope VI program, which helped Birmingham turn downtown's Metropolitan Gardens into Park Place and the former Tuxedo Court in Ensley into Tuxedo Terrace.
Once Hope VI's funding was slashed, HUD implemented Choice Neighbors, a program intended to replace blighted public housing with energy efficient, affordable homes and transform surrounding neighborhoods into revitalized mixed-income communities, according to HUD's website.
The first five Choice Neighborhoods implementation grants, totaling $122 million, in 2011 went to Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle.
The program also focuses on using public housing redevelopment to enhance neighborhood public schools and early learning programs, public transportation, as well as improve access to jobs and increase the health and safety of residents.
Communities are expected to use the funds to implement a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization strategy.
Razing Loveman is only one aspect of Birmingham's proposal, planners have said, as the funds are expected to spark a redevelopment of the many vacant properties along the surrounding North Titusville streets. The Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham has said nearly 27 percent of the land in the 434-acre North Titusville community is vacant or abandoned.
"It would encompass a complete transformation of the neighborhood," Truman said.
HUD also expects grantees to work with public and private agencies to build community support for the development and ensure it is financially sustainable.
Truman said the housing authority constantly forges such partnerships as it pursues its mission of providing affordable housing to the city's poorest residents.
The housing authority is working with the RPC and the Atlanta-based company Columbia Residential for the proposed redevelopment.
A Birmingham City Council committee in March also endorsed providing nearly $10 million for infrastructure upgrades, such as sidewalks and streetlights as part of the proposed redevelopment.
Other partners for the planned redevelopment of the North Titusville community include UAB, Princeton Baptist Medical Center, the Birmingham Crossplex and Legion Field, Truman said.
It's not the first time Birmingham has sought federal funding to replace Loveman Village.
The housing authority in 2011 applied for a Hope VI grant for the 498-unit Titusville housing community that is nearly 60 years old. That plan, which called for building a new complex with 280 units, was rejected.