HUD Choice Neighborhoods Grant Key To Much Larger Project In North St. Louis
A representative of the the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was in St. Louis today to announce that the city has been awarded a nearly $30 million implementation grant to revitalize an area of North St. Louis as part of the Choice Neighborhoods program.
Secretary Julian Castro traveled to St. Louis today to announce the grant valued at $29.5 million. Four other cities also received grants. In St. Louis, the grant will result in an additional $75 million or more worth of services for the area. McCormack Baron Salazar worked with the city of St. Louis on the grant application. The company owns the Preservation Square complex, which includes 675 subsidized housing units.
Other projects that were named finalists for this year’s grants included those in Boston, Camden (N.J.), Denver and Louisville. All were awarded grants.
Urban Strategies, a non-profit organization, was awarded a $500,000 planning grant in January 2015 to prepare for applying for this larger grant.
Work on Preservation Square is a key component of the grant work. An estimated $20 million will go to update the complex and the area surrounding it. The vacant Carr School building will be turned into a family center named for Jonas Hubbard Jr. The center would be operated by the YMCA and the Carr Square Tenant Management Corp.
Improvements at Preservation Square and around the area are expected to better connect it with downtown and the planned National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency project. The NGA project, which will move the agency’s compound from the area south of downtown, is expected to cost $1.75 billion.
Other cities that have been awarded grants as part of the program include New Orleans, Cincinnati, Columbus and Seattle. In New Orleans, the grant of $30.5 million was met with $1.15 billion of committed leverage. McCormack Baron Salazar was the lead applicant on San Francisco’s grant, which was met with $245 million of committed leverage.
With the NGA project guaranteed, it’s reasonable to assume that the St. Louis Choice Neighborhoods project will fare better than the project in New Orleans. According to a Next City story from July 2015, that project may have been too ambitious. At the time of the story only a very small percentage of the apartments had been completed four years (48 months) after the grant was awarded. The project originally called for 2,314 apartments to be built within 54 months. Next City estimated that at that pace, the 2,314 apartments would be done by 2026.
It appears that construction is ongoing in San Francisco, where McCormack Baron Salazar is a partner, as part of the Choice Neighborhoods program.
The North St. Louis site was selected as the new home of the NGA back in June and the city has until October 2017 to clear the site and deliver it to the government. The Army Corps of Engineers expects to complete the new NGA compound in 2022 or 2023.
The area targeted by HUD and the site of the new NGA complex are both in the footprint of the Northside Regeneration project. Developer Paul McKee announced the planned construction of 500 housing units back in June with plans for their completion by 2022. He is also working to start construction on a project featuring a convenience store and grocery store.
McKee first publicly announced his Northside plan in 2009 after quietly buying up land in the area for months through shell companies.
HUD and Castro have grand ambitions for the change that will result from the Choice Neighborhoods grants. Those ambitions were reflected in Castro’s statement from earlier today, as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“These game-changing investments will breathe new life into distressed neighborhoods and offer real opportunities for the families who call these communities home,” Castro said in a statement. “What we do today will leverage private investment and bear fruit for generations of families looking for an opportunity to thrive in neighborhoods that are connected to the economic and social fabric of their communities.”
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