Four communities have been selected to receive a combined $119.7 million under the federal Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.

Teams in Columbus, Ohio; Norwalk, Conn.; Philadelphia; and Pittsburgh will use their grants to redevelop severely distressed public housing or Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-assisted housing into new sustainable, mixed-income developments.

Building on the former HOPE VI program, Choice Neighborhoods takes a more comprehensive approach to revitalizing struggling neighborhoods. For example, teams may work will local schools to improve educational opportunities for residents. Plans may also address increasing public safety and economic opportunities.

Norwalk, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh each received a $30 million grant, and Columbus received $29.7 million from HUD. The communities were selected from 44 applicants.

McCormack Baron Salazar, a leading affordable housing developer, and Urban Strategies, a nonprofit specializing in community planning and working with residents, are part of the Choice Neighborhoods teams in Columbus and Pittsburgh.

“The grants will be combined with other public and private investments to leverage over $300 million in investment in each of these two neighborhoods – that type of investment creates real, lasting transformation,” said Vince Bennett, COO of McCormack Baron Salazar.


The Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority is leading the Ohio effort. Additional community partners include Partners Achieving Community Transformation and The Ohio State University. Plans call for replacing 414 severely distressed public housing units with more than 500 units of mixed-income housing.

In addition, the team plans to address health-care, education, and job training needs in the Near East Side neighborhood with a combination of case management, programs, and partnerships with local organizations.


The Housing Authority of the City of Norwalk and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency will lead the effort in their city. Key partners include Trinity Financial and Housing Opportunities Unlimited. The team is targeting the South Norwalk neighborhood. The area has suffered persistent flooding, and Superstorm Sandy caused severe flooding at the Washington Village public housing development and the temporary displacement of its residents. Plans call for rebuilding 136 public housing units into a new 273-unit mixed-income development.

A homeowner rehabilitation program, small business loans, and a new business improvement district will help current owners and businesses maintain and improve their properties.


The Philadelphia effort is led by the city Office of Housing and Community Development and the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Partners include Jonathan Rose Cos.,  Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), and Temple University. The Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) will help implement a number of programs, including affordable housing, health care, business improvement, community safety, family financial stability, and jobs.

“This is a part of Philadelphia where residents are committed to renewing their community,” said Andrew Frishkoff, executive director of LISC in Philadelphia, which has been investing in the North Philadelphia area for more than 25 years. “Choice Neighborhoods is a transformational initiative that can scale up their efforts.”

Targeting North Central Philadelphia, the team plans to replace Norris Apartments, a 147-unit public housing development, as well as create an additional 150 units, consisting of 90 workforce units, 30 market-rate units, and 30 homeownership units. The plans also proposes significant housing development on vacant lots throughout the neighborhood.  This infill development will be part of the broader neighborhood plan to treat or redevelop 700 vacant lots and make repairs to 215 homes.

Temple University and APM will lead efforts to improve resident outcomes in education, health, and employment.


The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh and the city of Pittsburgh are leading the effort in their city. The team will concentrate its efforts in the Larimer/East Liberty neighborhood.

The housing strategies target two eligible developments: the Hamilton-Larimer public housing complex and East Liberty Gardens, a HUD-assisted housing complex, both of which are obsolete, deteriorating developments. Plans call for one-for-one replacement of all 155 units, as part of a 334-unit high-quality, well-managed, mixed-income community.

The neighborhood strategies focus on developing physical and social connections between the isolated community and market-rate housing, transit investments, and economic development activities occurring on the edge of the community; addressing the expanding problem of vacant lots and properties; “greening” the community with green storm water infrastructure, green space, parks, and recreational opportunities; supporting existing homeowners to improve and “green” their homes;

In 2011, HUD awarded its first Choice Neighborhoods implementation grants to efforts in Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Seattle, a combined $122.27 million investment to bring comprehensive neighborhood revitalization to blighted areas in these cities.

With the latest grants, HUD has awarded more than $350 million in implementation grants since 2011.