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Hope VI project aims to remake two neighborhoods

It's been nearly five years since the Housing Authority first applied for $20 million in federal funds for a project to build a new public housing in the north end.

Construction will begin in January.

"We want people to know that this project will happen and it will deliver what was promised," Housing Authority Executive Director Stephanie Cowart said last week.

The Housing Authority will hold a ceremonial groundbreaking at 11 a.m. Monday.

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Roy A. Bernardi are expected to attend.

Linda L. Goodman, director of project development for Norstar Development USA, said the company expects to finalize financing for the first phase of the project in December and begin construction shortly after that.

The first phase will include 115 new homes and a new administration building.

Goodman said construction will take 18 to 24 months.

It has been a long wait for Center Court residents like Owen Steed. The 41-year-old father has attended community meetings for the project and said he is looking forward to seeing work begin.

"It's a sign that things are going to be happening," Steed said. "It won't be like a lot of other projects in Niagara Falls, where they talk about it and it doesn't happen or it's just a big hole in the ground."

Eventually, the project will replace the aging apartment buildings in the existing 134-unit Center Court housing complex. Plans call for a sprawling neighborhood with a mix of affordable rental units and houses geared toward homeownership.

A total of 282 of mixed-income housing units are to be built in the city. During the second phase, 25 affordable rental units and four market-rate homes will be built in LaSalle on property the Housing Authority already owns.

The project includes a mix of building styles, including townhouse duplexes and bungalow-style single-family homes, constructed on new streets.

Planners hope the new neighborhood will eliminate large open spaces that currently exist in the Center Court apartment complex. The new homes will have individual yards and parking pads in contrast to the shared parking lots that exist today.

"There's not been any significant housing development in the city of Niagara Falls in over 30 years," Cowart said.

The Housing Authority received a $20 million grant from the HUD's HOPE VI program to fund the roughly $72 million project.

A $4 million state grant from the Division of Housing and Community Development and other public and private money will help pay for the total project.

The Housing Authority applied for the federal Hope VI grant four times before finally winning the money.

"It's really, finally happening," Goodman said.

e-mail: djewell@buffnews.com

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