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CMHA's new planning grant could mean big changes for West End public housing communities

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Posted at 3:46 PM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 17:00:30-05

CINCINNATI — More big changes could be coming to Cincinnati’s West End neighborhood.

Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority on Thursday announced it has received a $410,000 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to plan for the future of three key properties there: Stanley Rowe Towers, Stanley Rowe Rowhouses and Liberty Street Apartments.

“We are thrilled to be selected for this prestigious grant, but the real winners are the residents of our communities,” CMHA CEO Gregory Johnson said in a news release. “The planning grant creates a pathway for Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority to upgrade the homes for our residents and allow them to remain in the West End so they can enjoy all the new amenities coming to the area with the current revitalization.”

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CMHA CEO Gregory Johnson

CMHA staff, residents and others from the community will work together to craft the plan, which will take one to two years to complete, according to Lesley Wardlow, CMHA’s senior communications coordinator.

“It’s a really wonderful thing,” said Gladys Watson, president of the resident council for Stanley Rowe Tower A. “My voice is going to be heard. So far, so good.”

Watson said residents aren’t worried at this point about whether the towers will be demolished as part of the plan. But if that happens, she said, CMHA has assured residents that the housing authority will have a place for them to go.

Wardlow said in an email to WCPO 9 that decisions about the future of the buildings themselves have not been made.

“What the transformation plan looks like is still to be determined,” she wrote. “After the plan is put together, we still have to apply for the implementation grant. At this time there is no guarantee we will receive the implementation grant. We will have to go through a very tough process to receive an implementation award.”

Receiving the planning grant was a tough process, too.

In a congratulatory letter, HUD Assistant Secretary Hunter Kurtz noted that HUD received 50 applications for this year’s Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants competition and only awarded 11.

CMHA has applied for the grant in the past and didn’t receive it, Wardlow said. The agency received a planning grant in the past for its English Woods development but did not win an implementation award to bring that plan to life, she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to have face-to-face, formal meetings with residents before CMHA filed its application for this year’s grant in September, said Alexis Kidd-Zaffer, executive director of Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses. Her organization is one of the community partners listed on CMHA’s grant award information.

About 500 residents live in the CMHA communities that will be part of the planning process, Kidd-Zaffer said.

The properties are just blocks away from FC Cincinnati’s new $250 million soccer stadium, which is scheduled to open in Spring 2021.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Poverty is an important focus for her and for WCPO 9. To reach Lucy, email lucy.may@wcpo.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.