The plan to revitalize Larimer with more than 350 units on new mixed-income housing units, retail, light industrial and green space beat out applications from 40 other cities to win a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Though the plan was championed by Pittsburgh Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess, he was not present during Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s meeting announcing the grant award. Those who did attend included HUD Assistant Secretary for Housing Carol Galante; U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pittsburgh; Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh Executive Director Caster Binion; and Kingsley Association Executive Director Malik Bankston.
During a recent interview Binion told the New Pittsburgh Courier the Choice Neighborhoods grant was key to realizing the plan.
“It’s huge, especially since we were competing with Philadelphia, and they rarely award two grants in the same state,” he said.
“The grant will allow us to leverage another $60 million in cash investment immediately, plus more than $200 million in services and support funding,” he said.
Binion also said the February award of $1 million in tax credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency helped secure the HUD grant. Besides Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the only other communities to win the Choice Housing grants were Columbus, Ohio and Norwalk, CT.
Despite campaigning against such massive projects, favoring more smaller-scale developments, Peduto worked with federal representatives like Doyle and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa, to promote the Larimer application, and met personally with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan while in Washington, DC. earlier this year.
“For too long, Larimer has suffered while its neighboring communities have experienced booming growth,” said Peduto. “Largely due to hard work by community groups and other stakeholders in Larimer, today we are a step closer to making this proud community join in the successes around it.”
Burgess called the grant “transformative.”
“It’s my belief that you have to do thing in scale for low- and moderate-income communities,” he said. “And the mayor and I have been working on an initiative to apply the success of the Larimer Plan citywide. It’s called Priority Neighborhoods will involve creating comprehensive plans for the most challenged communities, because we’ve learned from Larimer that if you want to redo a community, it has to be comprehensive.”
The Choice Neighborhoods program is designed to support public-private projects that replace distressed public housing with better-quality mixed-income units, improve education, safety and commercial activity and access to social services.
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