Meridian Star

January 5, 2014

MHA has high hopes for East End

By Terri Ferguson Smith /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     It's a big "if" for a big project, but if the Meridian Housing Authority receives a $30 million federal grant, an area of Meridian will be transformed.

    Area officials are hoping to land a HUD grant to help rebuild Meridian's East End. The effort has been in the works for a couple of years, and a deadline to get information submitted to HUD is just weeks away.

    Ron Turner, MHA executive director, said the first step came nearly two years ago when HUD announced that MHA would receive a $245,000 planning grant to fund the application process for the larger grant. Meridian was among 13 housing authorities that were able to receive this planning grant from HUD.

    "It allows us to put a comprehensive plan together in terms of how we're going to redevelop or revitalize one of our most distressed areas where a lot of our housing is concentrated, which is on the east end of town," Turner said.

    That encompasses, he said, the George Reese Court public housing community and the surrounding area in about a three-mile radius.

    "We're in the process now of completing that planning grant and we will be held responsible for submitting the deliverables to HUD on January 15," Turner said. "In that two-year period we've been working on this we've had numerous task force meetings with residents not only in public housing but residents in the community."

    A result of some of the concerns raised at meetings in that area, MHA has been able to turn one of its apartments into a police sub-precinct that is in operation now on the east side of town, Turner said.

    "Our whole emphasis is to revitalize, totally demolish the old George Reese Courts development that has been there since 1939. It's outlived it's usefulness," Turner said.

    The goal is to totally redevelop the area in much the same way MHA revitalized the Victory Village area on 45th Avenue, which is now Carousel Place, turning it into a mixed income neighborhood, Turner said.

    In 2004, MHA received a $17 million grant from HUD to revitalize Victory Village.

    "We were able to totally demolish over 187 units of distressed housing in that particular community," Turner said.

    Getting rid of the blight also eliminated a lot of the criminal activity that was happening in that area, he said.

    "If you go on 45th Avenue, you will see a totally vibrant, revitalized community that not only has mixed income apartments but we also have home ownership houses that are in that community," Turner said. "The housing authority is currently in the process of building an additional 10 homes in that community. We want to do that on a larger level over on the east end of town that involves this Choice Neighborhood grant."

    Turner emphasizes that the scope of the project hinges upon getting the grant, although MHA does have some other resources to add.

    "If we are successful in receiving an implementation grant from HUD, and let me just say this, they are very competitive — we could possibly have up to $30 million in assistance from HUD."

    HUD's recent award to MHA helps, he said. It shows that HUD recognizes that MHA is in compliance with good management practices in finance, management operations, facility management and capital funding. And the authority's success with the Carousel Place project shows HUD that MHA can do what it says it will do, Turner said.

    "I tell my staff all the time. It's not our motive to get up every day and achieve," Turner said. "It's our motive to get up and do what's right. Then everything else falls with the territory."