Housing authority seeks $30 million Cleveland Avenue grant

Originally Posted: Monday, June 6, 2016 7:00 pm
By Wesley Young Winston-Salem Journal

A dramatic plan to remake a Cleveland Avenue neighborhood is in the works at the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem, which is planning to apply for a $30 million federal grant to kick-start the work.

At the center of the neighborhood, the aging and obsolete Cleveland Avenue Homes public housing project would be razed and replaced with modern units.

Apartments, townhomes and single-family housing would face new streets linking the neighborhood to Liberty Street to the west and Cleveland Avenue to the east. Open spaces — parks, community gardens and the like, would be scattered across the neighborhood and connect to the Liberty Street.

Cleveland Avenue Homes resident Marquita Wisely said people in the development have heard for years that it would be torn down and replaced — so many times that some don't believe it will happen.

"I think people are hopeful now," she said. "They see change coming. We are talking about decreasing crime and taking back the neighborhood so that it is rebuilt for us."

When all is said and done, Larry Woods, the executive director of HAWS, says that the effort could amount to a total investment of "well over $100 million" in one of Winston-Salem's most blighted areas.

HAWS plans to apply for what is called a Choice Neighborhoods Initiatives grant, following up on a planning grant that it received in 2013 to put together the elements of the plan.

In some ways, the idea is similar to the Hope VI projects that took the wrecking ball to some of the city's older public housing projects and replaced the buildings with a mix of housing types that didn't scream the stigma of "public housing" to any and all driving through.

But the Choice Neighborhoods idea goes beyond simply building structures: It includes efforts to tackle issues like education, health, public safety and jobs, along with the need for services like a grocery store.

Standing in front of Cleveland Avenue Homes last week and facing south to downtown Winston-Salem, Woods talked about how the neighborhood should be able to plug into the dynamic growth happening in places like the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

"We have a ton of outside developers ready to come in and are champing at the bit," Woods said, highlighting the private investment that will play a key role in the effort along with public money.

In 2010, HAWS developed a Cleveland Avenue Master Plan that called for a sweeping transformation of a much larger area along Cleveland Avenue from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to 21st Street. The area encompassed more than 130 acres.

The area for the initial work was reduced to about 30 acres on the north end of the master plan area for purposes of applying for the grant, but first HAWS applied for a planning grant to get ready for the one the authority is now planning to apply for. Woods said HAWS was one of only four applicants to get the full planning grant, which was awarded in 2013 in the amount of $500,000.

To put together the plan, HAWS decided on a "bottom-up" approach that started in 2014, spending about a year talking with residents and involving them in committees that worked on goals. A group called Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods partnered with HAWS on that task.

Residents filled out surveys and found out more about the plans through a community day event. There were movie nights that handed out surveys to filmgoers, and a meeting with police to talk about crime concerns.

HAWS sees the transformation plan going forward in two phases: a first phase would take place on land owned by HAWS and involve a total investment of about $55 million.

A second phase would take in the area around the HAWS properties and would add up to an investment of almost $72 million.

To get the grant, Winston-Salem would have to become a co-applicant with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Derwick Paige, assistant city manager, said the city may be investing about $4.6 million in the project over six years as its part of the proposal.

Paige said the city's share of the money would be used for things like streets, water and sewer and parks. Winston-Salem's involvement will come before the Winston-Salem City Council this month.

"This is a transformational project for the area," Paige said. "(HAWS) has been showing the plan for several years. The city sees it as a tremendous possibility for development and investment."

Ask Woods and Charles Harvey, the HAWS chief construction officer, what Cleveland Avenue may look like when the work is finished, and they will show you projects elsewhere in the larger Cleveland Avenue master plan area.

Camden Station, opened late in 2015, provides 30 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments at the corner of Cleveland Avenue and 12th Street. It has a 200-family waiting list, Woods said.

Not far away is the Oaks at Tenth Apartments, with 50 units and also a waiting list of 200. In both developments, the head of household must be employed if they are not disabled or elderly.

The concept, called "step-up" housing, is designed to teach people about the responsibilities of homeownership in hopes that they will eventually buy a place of their own and no longer need public housing assistance.

Woods said similar requirements would come to Cleveland Avenue housing, assuming the grant comes though and that the work can proceed as planned.

"We want to build a housing style that will attract urban pioneers," Woods said. Some of the housing will be market rate, and some will be designated for people who make no more than 80 percent of area median income. And there will be housing for people who make less than 60 percent of area median income.

But the new housing won't look like it's public housing, officials said. That's important to overcome the stigma that gets attached to public housing projects, they said.

At the same time, Wisely said people who live in the neighborhood now don't want to see it gentrified to where they can't come back when the work is finished.

"Changing the appearance of the neighborhood will change a lot of the mindset about East Winston," Wisely said. "Once the neighborhood gets a new look, a different attitude will come."

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (336)727-7369 @wyoungWSJ

All photos by David Folfe/WSJournal

Phase I Plan area

Camden Station, a 30-unit development of the HAWS on Cleveland Avenue, is similar to what is what HAWS hopes to build at Cleveland Ave Homes complex a few blocks away

The HAWS hopes to replace the aging Cleveland Ave Homes with newer homes.