City of Atlanta prepares for ‘site visit’ of HUD panel awarding Choice grants

By Maria Saporta

When it comes to winning a $30 million federal Choice grant, Atlanta leaders are hoping the second time will be the charm.

Once again, Atlanta is a finalist for a Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant awarded from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Atlanta has been selected as one of nine finalists from a total of 33 applicants. It is not clear how many finalists will win a Choice grant during this cycle.

Julian Castro John Hope Bryant

HUD Secretary Julian Castro listens to John Hope Bryant’s ideas (Photo: Maria Saporta)

A team of experts will be coming to Atlanta in early August on a site visit. Those site visits will be a critical part of the reviews of which finalists should win a Choice grant. That site visit will be Atlanta’s best opportunity to impress the group of why it should win a Choice grant.

The City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Housing Authority would partner with partners in the public and private sectors to revitalize portions of the westside of Atlanta – particularly the communities of Vine City, Ashview Heights and the Atlanta University Center neighborhood.

In a recent statement, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he was “committed to working with the Atlanta Housing Authority to implement our plan to transform an underserved community into a vibrant one.”

The mayor went on to say that the City of Atlanta has established itself as a national leader in restoring neighborhoods and that the city is “uniquely positioned to receive this grant.”

Joy W. Fitzgerald, interim president and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority, said the city and its partners have been working hard to become one of the finalists for the grant.

“We are preparing for the next step which is a site visit by HUD, and our goal is to show HUD the extent to which communities and people’s lives will be changed by this investment,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “With our partners and the community, we have put a comprehensive plan in place, and I believe Atlanta has an excellent chance of being chosen to receive the funds.”

But Atlanta is competing against eight other finalists to win in this round of Choice grants.

The other finalists are:

* Mayor and City Council of Baltimore;

* Housing Authority/City of Boston;

* Housing Authority of the City of Camden/City of Camden, N.J.;

* Housing Authority of Kansas City/City of Kansas City, Mo.;

* Memphis Housing Authority/City of Memphis, Tenn.;

* City of Milwaukee/Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee;

* King County Housing Authority/Renton Housing Authority and City of Renton, Wash.; and

* Housing Authority of the County of Sacramento/City of Sacramento, Calif.

Atlanta has been seeking a partnership dating back to 2010 when the city and AHA received a Choice Neighborhoods Planning grant to develop a strategic neighborhood transformation plan.

The next step was to apply for an implementation grant. Then in the last year’s round, Atlanta became one of six finalists for the $30 million Choice grant.

Unfortunately, four cities were selected for the grant, and Atlanta was not one of those. The four winners were Columbus, Ohio; Norwalk, Connecticut; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Pittsburgh, Pa.

After losing out, the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Housing Authority, decided to try again. A decision on the Choice grants should be announced sometime this fall.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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