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Officials celebrate grant for public housing

Persistence has paid off for Duluth's Harbor View neighborhood. After several years of trying, the upper Hillside community of public housing has nailed down federal funds for redevelopment.

Persistence has paid off for Duluth's Harbor View neighborhood. After several years of trying, the upper Hillside community of public housing has nailed down federal funds for redevelopment.

Congressman Jim Oberstar joined Mayor Gary Doty, Harbor View residents and other officials Monday to announce the $20 million funding award and plans for redevelopment.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Duluth was one of 28 cities awarded grants to revitalize distressed public housing and spur economic development. Fifty-eight projects had applied.

The funds are part of the HOPE VI program launched in 1992. Harbor View has been in the chase for several years.

"It's been a long time in the making," said Rick Ball, Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority. "... Many people have been working on it, and there have been over 300 meetings." More than 40 agencies and organizations were involved.

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Doty said it will be the biggest community redevelopment project in Duluth's history. He said the $20 million will leverage $106 million for the project.

The grant is designed to help local housing authorities leverage private capital through bonds, loan deals and mortgages.

The plan calls for the 200 public housing units at Harbor View to be demolished and replaced with 186 units of mixed income housing on a nearby 10 acres acquired from the school district. There will also be 312 units of off-site housing. According to Doty, the new units will not be segmented by income.

And rather than the 1950s blocky institutional look of the existing units, the new housing will be designed to mesh with adjacent residential neighborhoods. The new development will also offer community facilities to provide programs and services such as child care.

"I can't think of a happier occasion," Oberstar said. "It took three years."

He praised the HOPE VI program but pointed out that President Bush has proposed eliminating it in 2004.

The project will eventually end up with 498 units, retaining 200 units of public housing. The remainder will be a mix, including 70 off site units reserved for home ownership.

In 2001, Duluth had 1,204 public housing units with an occupancy rate of 94 percent. There were 1,409 households on a waiting list, up from 853 in 1998. Another 1,188 households received rental assistance, with a waiting list of 986.

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Forty-nine people attended a Tuesday night meeting to learn about the development process. They can expect to see ground preparations start this summer on the adjacent site.

Representatives from the offices of Minnesota senators Norm Coleman and Mark Dayton also attended the event.

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