Feb. 05–Newport News is one of four national finalists eligible to receive up to $30 million to redevelop and transform public housing communities.
The city and the Newport News Redevelopment and Housing Authority are familiar with the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Choice Neighborhood program. Newport News was a finalist for funding in the last round of applications, but fell just short of receiving money to catalyze a plan to transform the Marshall-Ridley area.
Karen Wilds, the director of the redevelopment and housing authority, said she feels the city has a better shot this time around.
There were only a couple of months between finding out Newport News would not get funding and applying for the same funding again, but city and authority staff received feedback from HUD on how to improve the application and make adjustments.
Specifically, HUD officials asked for more detail on financing residential and retail development, transit improvements and expanding broadband access, according to a presentation the city delivered to Marshall-Ridley residents in August. HUD also said it wanted to see a greater mix of incomes in the housing.
Wilds said the first application was premature because HUD had not yet approved Newport News’ transformation plan, which was funded by a Choice Neighborhood Planning grant. Officials hurried to submit because they were unsure of the program’s future with the change in presidential administration.
When it was submitted again in September, the plan already had HUD’s approval.
Additionally, the city has taken steps toward transformation in the last year, such as acquiring property on Jefferson Avenue in the downtown area to create co-working office space, building access to the beach at King-Lincoln Park on the city’s southern shore and winning state funding for a workforce development center in Brooks Crossing.
"We think we can tell a really good story" of ongoing transformation, Wilds said.
HUD notified Newport News it was a finalist Friday afternoon. In total, 32 localities applied for Choice Neighborhood funding. Along with Newport News, the other finalists are Baton Rouge, La.; Omaha, Neb.; and Norfolk. Last year, the city was the only finalist out of six that did not receive money.
HUD officials will visit Newport News on March 6 to see the transformation area and ask questions about the plan.
Newport News’ target area is bound by 39th Street to the north, Hampton Roads Harbor to the south, Interstate 664 to the west and Marshall Avenue and the former Chase Bag property to the east. According to city estimates, the Marshall-Ridley area’s poverty rate is about 51 percent compared with Newport News’ overall 15.2 percent. The unemployment rate is 21 percent versus the city’s rate of 6.6 percent.
City officials have said that transformation of the area will occur regardless of HUD funding, calling the money an accelerator to plans that already are in place.
Josh Reyes, 757-247-4692, firstname.lastname@example.org, @jdauzreyes
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