The city of Gainesville and the Gainesville Housing Authority won an initial $500,000 grant from the federal government this week, allowing a two-year planning stage and opening the door for a potential $30 million.
The Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, was awarded to 14 cities across the nation with a focus on housing, people and neighborhoods. The grant focuses on the East University Avenue communities—east of Waldo Road, south of NE 8th Avenue and west of SW 31st Street.
Gainesville Housing Authority (GHA) officials said the grant acts as a catalyst to conduct community input and planning that the organization already planned.
Pamela Davis, chief executive officer of GHA, said the team pulled together in only a few weeks to get the 100-page application ready. In that time, GHA secured 20 community partners and the organization scored a 90 out of 104 on the application.
“This is a very exciting and strategic partnership between our agency and the city of Gainesville,” Davis said at the announcement event. “We can't wait. We've been asking to partner for years, and now we have a great project that for the next two years we'll be working on.”
The grant funds planning for two years and allows the residents, businesses and nonprofits to take part in the process. Completing the planning grant makes cities highly competitive for the Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant that ranges from $30 million to $50 million.
Those funds revitalize public housing, for GHA it would be Lake Terrace and Pine Meadows, while also pumping money into local transit, job access, leaning programs, public schools and other services.
Of the initial funds, the grant requires that $150,000 be used for an “early action project.” The project will be selected with the community, happen in the summer of 2024 and have an immediate positive benefit.
Mayor Harvey Ward highlighted the impact the grant has had in Tampa and Miami-Dade as a possibility of how Gainesville could change. He said the city has faced headwinds recently but has also had success in attracting federal and state funds.
This year, the city has received $8 million from the federal government for University Avenue construction, $4 million for the transit system, $22.5 million for a renovation of the Main Street Water Reclamation Facility and just over $220,00 for Gainesville Fire Rescue.
“We are we are making progress,” Ward said. “We are a city that is going places and getting things done, and we’re getting it done with our partners like Gainesville Housing Authority.”