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Kalilah Collins Voices Concerns Over Possible Hope VI Displacement

City and federal officials have been applauding the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s decision to give Louisville a Hope VI grant to raze the Sheppard Square public housing complex, but many residents aren’t cheering.

The city plans to replace Sheppard Square with a larger mixed-income neighborhood. HUD has promised that current residents will be given the chance to move back to the neighborhood. But Kalilah Collins with Women in Transition says research on other Hope VI developments has shown that only about 25 percent of those displaced return.   She says displaced families can be hurt by the transition, because of their dependence on neighborhood connections.

“Their access to the Broadway bus is not gone,” she says “their access to a local person who can get their check cashed, or whatever the case may be that’s now gone, you tear up their social networks and that’s important to people.”

Collins says rising costs, different requirements for the new housing or availability have scattered residents and she is skeptical about the promise made by HUD to bring residents back.

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Government Officials Announce $22 Million Sheppard Square Revitalization Loan

US Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan was in Louisville today to announce a $22 million grant to revitalize the Sheppard Square public housing development and the surrounding community.

The grant is part of the Hope VI program and will be used to raze the current development and replace it with mixed-income housing.

Secretary Donovan praised Metro Government’s innovation and history with the Hope VI program while commending the work of local government legislators and officials for putting this development together.

“You know so often we talk about big government versus small government, what we’re celebrating today is smart government,” says Donovan “a partnership between the public and private communities and sectors that can change people’s lives that’s the kind of transformation we’re gonna see at Sheppard Square.”

This grant is the fourth Hope VI grant for Louisville. The nearly 70-year-old Sheppard Square complex includes 326 units. The new neighborhood will include an additional 128 units.

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First Foreclosed Home Renovated By HUD Sold

State and federal housing officials Wednesday unveiled the first previously-foreclosed home renovated with federal stimulus funds.

The stimulus money came through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization program. Mayor Greg Fischer says the house is one of several abandoned or foreclosed homes in the city to receive a makeover using federal dollars.

“Louisville has received a little bit over ten million dollars of Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding and we’ve partnered with a handful of non-profit developers in several neighborhoods. Such as this one here in Newburg, also in Portland, Shawnee, Smoketown, Shelby Park and a few others,” he says.

Fischer says more than 50 additional properties are also being rehabilitated.

The house is also the first in the HUD program to be sold in Louisville. Stephanie Miller, a single mother of three, is the new owner.

“I’m glad to be a part of the NSP program it was perfect timing for me,” she says. “I’ve been working on this for a long time, but I was glad to see that there and made available to me and my family to get this going. I always lived in this area so it wasn’t hard for me to decide to pick a home here.”

Miller says she and her family will be moving in within a week or so.

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Grocery Store Coming To Park DuValle

Local and federal officials Tuesday broke ground on a new grocery store for the Park DuValle housing development southwest of downtown. The project was funded largely through federal stimulus and housing funds.

The store has been on the city’s wish list for Park DuValle for years, but it’s been delayed due largely to uncertain financing. When the store opens in the summer, it will serve produce to a community that does not have easy access to fresh foods. Housing and Urban Development regional administrator Ed Jennings says that was one reason why the project was chosen by White House officials to receive federal support.

“We didn’t develop this concept, this obviously was around way before the Obama Administration came around. But we’re able to identify and see good projects we can support,” he says.

Jennings says the estimated 200 construction jobs the 4.4 million dollar project will create were also a deciding factor. The store will be operated by the local grocery chain ValuMarket. It is expected to have about 30 employees once it’s built.

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HUD Letter Renews Hope For Museum Plaza Loan

Kentucky officials say they are on the verge of receiving a one hundred million dollar loan to help kick-start Louisville’s Museum Plaza project.

The state applied for the loan through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which uses private investments to help finance projects that will benefit multiple communities. Congressman John Yarmuth says he recently received a letter from HUD officials that said they were optimistic the loan could be arranged.

“I’ve never worked on one of these before so I don’t know whether it’s normal, but I will say that the letter would not have been sent if there was not a strong commitment that, if all the things falling into place outside of HUD, that HUD would make the commitment. They wouldn’t have sent the letter otherwise,” he says.

The loan largely hinges on whether Museum Plaza’s developers can secure 140 million dollars in construction loans. Yarmuth says with federal dollars likely on the line, the construction loans may be easier to obtain.

“My guess is that we will see the formalization of the HUD commitment before the end of the year. I would anticipate work would begin on Museum Plaza sometime in the first half of 2011,” he says.

Work on the 62-story Museum Plaza was stalled indefinitely in 2008 when the project became too difficult to finance.

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Public Hearing Held On Museum Plaza Loan

by Gabe Bullard

A public hearing was held Wednesday on a potential loan for the $465 million Museum Plaza project in downtown Louisville.

Museum Plaza’s developers are working with the state on an application for a $100 million Housing and Urban Development loan. The loan is arranged by HUD in Washington, but the money would come from private investors and would be guaranteed and repaid by the developers.

Department of Local Government commissioner Tony Wilder says approval for the loan is largely dependent on potential job creation, but the developers’ guarantee will likely help.

“Normally these projects don’t require this kind of security guarantee,” he says. “Some states have actually taken a chance with those circumstances. We did not do it.”

The public input gathered Wednesday was the final step in the application process, and the request will be submitted to the Louisville HUD office on Friday.

“It takes about 30 days or so, or 40 days at HUD Louisville, and then another 60 or more at Washington,” says Wilder. “I suspect, given the high-profile nature of this project, it will probably be expedited a little bit.”

Wilder says three people spoke at the hearing, all of them in favor of the loan.

Due to financing problems, Museum Plaza has been stalled since 2008.

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Public Hearing On Museum Plaza Loan Planned For Wednesday

On Wednesday, Kentuckians will have a chance to weigh in on a new fundraising plan for the Museum Plaza skyscraper.

The tower is planned for downtown Louisville, but has been on hold for more than two years. The state is now planning to seek a $100 million loan through the Department of Housing and Urban Development to bolster construction.

The loan would come from private investors, through HUD, to Kentucky, where Museum Plaza’s developers have promised to repay and guarantee the funds. The application for the money will be sent to HUD this month, and Developer Craig Greenberg expects it will be judged on several criteria.

“What kind of public and private support does the project have? Will it achieve the goals of job creation for low and moderate-income individuals? Will it attract folks to work at the project from the surrounding communities? What will the overall economic impact be of the project?” he says.

Before the application can be submitted, it must be open for public comment. A hearing on the plan will be held Wednesday in Frankfort.

Greenberg says the tower’s hotels, offices and other facilities will offer permanent jobs to regional workers. The total cost of the project is about $465 million.

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HUD Loan May Spur Museum Plaza Construction

by Gabe Bullard

Financing may soon become available for Louisville’s indefinitely-delayed Museum Plaza skyscraper.

The building’s developers have been working with city and state officials to put together an application for a $100 million loan from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The loan would come from HUD’s Section-108 program. Twelve-hundred such loans have been distributed since 2008. Officials say the loan poses no risk to the state, as the developers have pledged to repay it.

Given the potential for thousands of new construction jobs if work resumes on Museum Plaza, officials say their loan application is strong. However, Governor Steve Beshear says there’s no guarantee that it will be approved.

“We’re going to be doing everything that we’re big enough to do to make sure that HUD approves this application, but in the end it will be up to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to make the final decision on this application,” he says.

Museum Plaza’s developers say the loan would help them secure the additional $365 million necessary to complete the tower. The additional funds would be raised mostly through bonds and construction loans.

The internal layout of the building has also been changed, with 90 condos being scrapped for a second hotel. Sales of condos downtown have been slow, and developer Craig Greenberg says demand for hotel rooms is more likely to increase in the future.

“The Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau very recently came out with a new strategic plan about how to grow and attract more people here for conventions as well as more tourists, and one of their key findings was that our downtown area lacks class A, quality hotel rooms,” says Greenberg.

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Housing Authority To Re-Apply For HUD Grant

by Gabe Bullard

The Louisville Metro Housing Authority is preparing to resubmit an application for federal funds to demolish the Sheppard Square housing complex in the Smoketown neighborhood.

The authority is seeking to destroy Sheppard Square and replace it with a more modern housing complex. A request for a $22 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to begin work was rejected last week following what authority director Tim Barry says was a tight competition for limited funds.

Barry says Louisville’s request will be tweaked and resubmitted later this summer. But the changes will be minor, he says, as the application and housing plan are strong.

“It’s just some of the narrower things. You have to really button this thing up tightly. It’s a huge document, just huge. It’s hundreds of pages that we submit and there’s some areas that we want to make sure that w e explain what we want to do completely,” he says. “These developments—and we’re not the only city to have them—are 60 to 70 years old and have served a very useful purpose for 6 or 7 decades, and have outlived their usefulness. It has nothing to do with the residents, it has everything to do with the fact that they were built at a different time with different building standards.”

In all, 44 agencies applied for HUD grants. Six were awarded.

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Homeless Census Shows Fewer People on the Streets

The number of people classified as homeless in Louisville has dropped drastically in the last year, but advocates say it’s because of a much more stringent definition of the word.

Federal funds to help the homeless are handed out through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development – or HUD. They dispense funds according to need, based on an annual homeless census and point-in-time surveys.

Coalition for the Homeless Director Marlene Gordon says the number of homeless in Louisville dropped to just under nine-thousand, from more than 11-thousand the previous year. She says there aren’t fewer homeless in Louisville, but the census number are more accurate than in years past.

“These numbers are much better than we’ve had in the past because we were just so focused on doing it accurately,” says Gordon, “so I don’t think while the numbers look lower the need is great and maybe even greater.”

Gordon says they hope the lower numbers don’t mean a drop in funding from HUD. She says they should be rewarded for doing a more accurate survey.