Here’s what $30 million can provide the St. Paul’s area revitalization project

Tidewater Gardens is part of the St. Paul's district in Norfolk. (Southside Daily/courtesy of St. Paul's area Facebook)
Tidewater Gardens is part of the St. Paul’s district in Norfolk. (Southside Daily/courtesy of St. Paul’s area Facebook)

NORFOLK — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently awarded Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the city a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Grant for the Tidewater Gardens community in the St. Paul’s Area.

“This money will help us move this project forward in a faster way,” said Barbara Hamm Lee, spokeswoman for the St. Paul’s area revitalization initiative.

While the grant money is a significant drop in the bucket, she said they will still need more funding to completely finish the project.

The grant will provide the following support:

  • More than 600 housing choice vouchers. One for every Tidewater Gardens household who chooses this option. These vouchers are above and beyond the annual HUD allotment.
  • $4.5 million in supportive services to expand the capacity of People First.
  • $4.5 million for neighborhood amenities such as a 60,000 square feet catalytic community hub for culinary arts, technology, art and more.
  • $21 million for housing redevelopment. This includes replacement, affordable and market rate housing options.

The Tidewater Gardens region has 618 apartment units which represents 1,587 residents, including children.

“We want to make sure that every family will receive these benefits,” Hamm Lee said.

“We are excited for this historic investment in the city of Norfolk.  During my race for mayor, I promised to take bold steps to de-concentrate poverty and expand opportunity for everyone in Norfolk. To make this happen, we worked to develop a successful partnership with HUD,” said Norfolk Kenneth Cooper Alexander.

By offering the housing vouchers and the money for support services for People First, Tidewater Gardens will be able to move through the first phase of the project at a much faster rate, Hamm Lee said.

Getting people out of Tidewater Gardens so the revitalization project can happen will be one of the bigger parts of the overall project.

NRHA and the city applied for funding to support the transformation of the St. Paul’s Area in September 2018, officials said.

The St. Paul’s Area is more than 200 acres which contains three public housing communities and is subject to extensive flooding.

Norfolk’s transformation plan includes parallel efforts of both people and place.

Apart from the $30 million Norfolk will receive from HUD, the city and its partners have made investments and commitments of more than $158.5 million in the St. Paul’s area.

The grant funding will help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty by investing in residents with supportive services around housing, employment, education and health and wellness programs, officials said.

Physically it creates a system of parks, open space and streets to manage stormwater and flooding; provides recreational, cultural and educational amenities; reconnects the community to regional assets; and, provides diverse housing types to accommodate all incomes.

For information on St. Paul’s Area, click here.

People First contract

Norfolk city officials on Thursday announced they have selected Urban Strategies, Inc. as the People First contractor for the St. Paul’s Area Transformation.

Urban Strategies, Inc. is a national nonprofit with extensive experience in implementing place-based human capital development strategies in communities that are undergoing comprehensive physical revitalization, officials said.

Founded in 1978, USI works to support communities, develop economic opportunities, cradle-to-college/career success, access to high quality health services and a range of comprehensive human service supports. USI currently supports transformation work in 32 communities in 18 cities around the country, according to a news release from the city.

USI is part of 11 Choice Neighborhood Initiative implementation teams and has served as the direct grantee for two CNI planning grants.

USI uses a comprehensive case management model that focuses on building upon the existing assets of families. With residents taking the lead, USI works with individuals and families to assess strengths and opportunities for economic advancement, helping residents take action to climb ladders of opportunity, according to the city.

The People First initiative launched at the St. Paul’s Area Redevelopment community meeting on Aug. 22, 2018.

The People First team currently works out of offices located in Tidewater Gardens and have connected with all the residents in living in phase one of Tidewater Gardens.

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