Tampa gets $30 million HUD grant for Encore development

12/13/12 Seán Kinane
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Thursday the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it was awarding a $30 million grant to the Tampa Housing Authority to help fund the Encore project in downtown Tampa and nearby communities.

In a conference call, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor said Tampa’s grant is the largest of the four awarded through HUD’s Choice Neighborhood Initiative.

"This exciting Choice Neighborhood award to the Tampa Housing Authority will bring more jobs, modern housing to the heart of Tampa. That area that connects jobs to the neighborhood that years ago was the blighted Central Park Village now is being reborn. It's an important gateway and connection between downtown Tampa, the Channel District, Ybor City, East Tampa and Tampa Heights."

Castor said the government funds are helping community partners -- including private companies -- transform the demolished Central Park Village into a mixed-income neighborhood.

"Because what we've learned over time is it's so important to link housing with schools. To link housing with transportation and access to jobs. So a strong emphasis is placed on local community planning here and that's what won the day for us."

Tampa Housing Authority President Jerome Ryans called the Encore project a labor of love and said his staff is ecstatic about the grant.

"This is a real opportunity for us to change the community. We've been working on it for a number of years and I think the next five, next 3 to 5 years will be very fruitful in that area. There's a number of things that we're going to do. There's a litany of programs and projects and partners and sub partners that we'll be using in the program itself. My attitude now is we have a can-do spirit here in Tampa."

Tampa wants to tear down and redevelop another low-income housing project, North Boulevard Homes, west of the Hillsborough River. At a press conference this afternoon, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn suggested that instead of waiting for the new development, there’s a chance displaced residents of North Boulevard Homes could move right in to the Encore project,

"... if there’s availability. That will make that transition so much easier because the folks in North Boulevard homes who live, again, in some fairly deplorable conditions will have an opportunity to not go out into the marketplace with a Section 8 voucher but to potentially move right into some new buildings, particularly the seniors. The initial buildings are senior buildings. Those are the most vulnerable of that population. Those are the ones for whom the disruption is the most traumatic. To the extent that you could ease that quicker, it's better for everyone concerned.”

This isn’t the first federal money awarded to the project. In 2010 the mixed-income Encore development received a $38 million grant from HUD through the federal stimulus bill called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

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