Public housing

$50 million grant to help raze barrack-like Omaha public housing complex

OMAHA — A $50 million federal grant is set to help kick off what could be a $300 million transformation of the city’s largest public housing complex and surrounding South Omaha neighborhoods.

The partners involved in the redesign – the City of Omaha, the Omaha Housing Authority, Canopy South and Brinshore Development – were awaiting information on the Choice Neighborhoods grant from US Housing and Urban Development.

(Courtesy of Canopy South)

The Nebraska Examiner has learned that the office of U.S. Representative Don Bacon, R-Neb., received notification Tuesday that Omaha was one of four public housing authorities in four states to receive a portion of $180 million. of dollars.

Philanthropists get involved

Omaha’s award, combined with $25 million pledged by the local philanthropic community, will spark the long-awaited transformation of the low-income area southeast of 30 and Q streets, Canopy South’s Cesar Garcia said when he was contacted on Tuesday.

Garcia said continued fundraising and private development efforts should help achieve the estimated $300 million investment likely needed to revitalize the area, which has been held back by historic red lines and other obstacles. .

Bacon, said he was most impressed with the private-public alliance and the neighborhood’s contribution.

“I look forward to following the progress of this project as it will improve health, education, economic development and the health disparities that residents of this neighborhood face every day,” Bacon said.

OHA Chief Executive Joanie Poore said she couldn’t comment until an official announcement, likely later this week. A spokesman for Mayor Jean Stothert was unavailable on Tuesday.

At the center of the plan is the demolition of Southside Terrace Homes, a maze of 360 barrack-like apartments now home to around 1,300 people.

Discussions have been going on for years over the razing and replacement of the government-funded project, which spans about 10 blocks and has been described as isolated and stigmatizing for residents.

Garcia said the demolition of Southside’s roughly 50 brick structures will wait until current residents are safe in other housing. Families will have the option, he said, of moving into newly built homes that are yet to be built and will help replace Southside.

Partners in the revitalization effort that includes the Indian Hill neighborhood used an earlier $1.3 million grant to create a plan for how to replace the housing complex, which was originally built in 1940.

Mix of housing styles

Key elements, Garcia said, include building 760 new homes in the area that will be a mix of styles, from duplexes to larger apartment buildings.

About 360 of the units would be reserved for households whose rents are subsidized with Section 8 vouchers.

The rest would be “mixed-income” housing, meaning some neighbors would rent their new homes at subsidized rates and others would pay market rents.

The vision is to replace, one for one, the Southside units and build even more housing for higher income levels. This should result in a greater diversity of tenants and a lower concentration of poverty.

“The idea is to include in the neighborhood opportunities for other socio-economic strata,” Garcia said. “Then you’ll see a community thrive because you’re inserting people who could help create opportunities for others.”

For example, Garcia said, a store manager living in the area might contact an unemployed neighbor about a job opening at his company. “Who helps if everyone is in trouble? ” he said.

At the heart of the plan are new structures and services to reach children in preschool, early education and older pupils. Non-profit organizations would also be drawn to the area.

The new community is to be modeled on the national Purpose Built Communities approach, which is also reflected in the Highlander neighborhood of Seventy Five North in North Omaha.

‘Need that spark’

Among the philanthropists contributing to this effort are Susie Buffett’s Sherwood Foundation and the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation.

Garcia cited the East Lake neighborhood in Atlanta as a similar project that appears to have had success.

“This community has gone from being one of the most violent or marginalized to a vibrant community, full of opportunity, with a great education system.”

He said South Omaha already had a good base to build on.

“We have all the other tools: entrepreneurship; the desire to keep growing. We come, in general, as an immigrant community with this desire to have a better life.

“We just need that spark, financially.”

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