EJP is proud to announce that the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority is the newest EJP client to be awarded $35,000,000 Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
By Eric Heisig, cleveland.com
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday announced a $35 million grant to the city of Cleveland and the local public housing authority to redevelop a long-neglected, isolated area of the Buckeye-Woodhill neighborhood and connect it to other areas of the city.
While far from covering the total cost of the project, HUD’s awarding of the “Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant” to the city and Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority is considered a major step in the plans to demolish and replace the 487-unit Woodhill Homes – one of the oldest public housing complexes in the city – as well as build additional apartments in the area.
In total, the project calls for building 638 new apartments and creating 162 new housing vouchers, which residents can use to live in that or other areas.
“It’s not every day that this kind of thing happens,” said City Councilman Blaine Griffin, whose ward includes Buckeye-Woodhill. “It’s catalytic. It’s transformational. Ten years from now we’ll all be sitting here having a conversation and we’ll be talking about this day.”
Broadly, the project involves adding new low-income and market-rate apartments, adding streets to connect the neighborhood, adding senior housing, creating new parks and common areas and rehabilitating existing homes. Woodhill Homes will be demolished and rebuilt within the next several years, and some of the public housing units will be mixed with the other low-income and market-rate apartments that won’t be overseen by CMHA.
Also on tap are a new health clinic, an early childhood education center and retail space.
The project will be built in phases. Workers plan to break ground on the first 120 apartments, called “Woodhill Station West” and slated for the site of the former Buckeye Woodland Elementary School, later this year.
Both Cleveland and CMHA have pushed to redevelop the 0.8-square-mile area – surrounded by Woodhill Road, Buckeye Road, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, East 116th Street and railroad tracks – for years. Officials want to connect what has historically been an isolated East Side neighborhood with a high crime rate to the rest of the city.
Many have noted that University Circle and Shaker Square are each less than two miles away, and a news release the city and CMHA put out Wednesday to announce the HUD grant said that Buckeye-Woodhill has seen more than $113 million in investments over the past decade.
The hope overall is to improve the lives of residents. Especially those who live in Woodhill Homes, which was built more than 80 years ago.
Many in the antiquated complex lack internet access and have heating problems. Alex Pesta of City Architecture, the firm that designed the project, said at a meeting in August that only 27% of apartments in Woodhill Homes have shower heads.
The city previously agreed to invest $15.5 million in the project, primarily through street and utility improvements. The city and CMHA applied to receive the same grant in 2020. While HUD chose the project as a finalist, it was ultimately not selected.
Debbie Wilber, assistant director and research associate for the National Initiative on Mixed-Income Communities at Case Western Reserve University and a member of the team who submitted the HUD application, said the second go-round included more information about the project’s housing plan. It also included more public and private organizations, including the participation of Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
During a virtual site tour for HUD official in April, “we really just presented a very united front,” Wilber said.
HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, congresswoman for the area before President Joe Biden appointed her, said that the grant “will support local vision for reinvigorating low-income communities into areas of opportunity-whether it be with regard to housing, health, education, childcare, or jobs.” The department on Wednesday announced five grants totaling $160 million.
Griffin described the award as a win for all of Cleveland, but he said it also is personal for him.
Low-income housing projects can get a bad reputation sometimes because of crime that occurs there. But Griffin, who lives not far from Woodhill Homes, said that isn’t a fair picture.
“The kids that grew up in those estates, they grew up with my kids,” Griffin said. They played together and went to school together and came from good families.
“Most of all these are loving communities that just need some attention,” he added.