HANO gets $30.5 million to re-do Iberville public-housing complex

September 2 2011 | Latest News
The Housing Authority of New Orleans today received a $30.5 million federal grant...

HANO gets $30.5 million to re-do Iberville public-housing complex

Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2011, 10:57 AM Updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2011, 1:45 PM

By Katy Reckdahl, The Times-Picayune

The Housing Authority of New Orleans today received a $30.5 million federal grant that could drastically change a large portion of the city's downtown. The grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also seals the fate of the Iberville, the city's last traditional public-housing development, which sits near the edge of the French Quarter.

iberville_public_housing_aerial.JPGDavid Grunfeld, The Times-Picayune archiveThe Iberville housing development, next to the French Quarter, was photographed in August 2010. Today's grant means big changes for HANO's last traditional development left, the Iberville, as well as a sweeping 300-square-block area of downtown New Orleans.

As the grant demanded, HANO and its partner, the city of New Orleans, expanded their plans and investment far beyond the 23-acre Iberville site to an area they call "Iberville-Treme," a 300-square-block area bordered by Tulane and St. Bernard avenues and Broad and Rampart streets. With hopes of transforming an entire neighborhood, developers will spend $589 million in the "Iberville-Treme" area to construct nearly 2,446 new apartments, many above ground-floor stores and cafes.

HANO administrative receiver David Gilmore has said for months that he planned to re-do the Iberville no matter what and that the $30.5 million federal grant amounted to only a "downpayment" on the overall plan. But federal support of the project also brings other needed supports, such as Section 8 vouchers for all families who need to move while construction is underway.

Developers have already been moving forward.

Construction is underway in the historic 18-story Texaco Building at 1501 Canal St., which will include 114 senior-citizen apartments and ground-floor retail. And a group of developers filed applications today with the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, requesting low-income housing tax credits for three segments of the plan. Nonprofit developer Artspace filed an application for its plan to create art lofts within the historic Andrew J. Bell school in the 6th Ward. And Iberville site developers McCormack Baron Salazar and HRI Properties requested tax credits for one section of the Iberville complex and for Israel Augustine School on South Broad Street, which will be renovated into apartments.

Another historic 6th Ward school, G.O. Mondy, will also become apartments.

On the Iberville site itself, where construction could begin next fall, architects have designed streetscapes that mix new construction with 22 of Iberville's original brick buildings, which will be completely renovated.

Five cities -- New Orleans, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle -- received a total of $122 million today from HUD as part of the new Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, which has been positioned as a "new and improved" successor to HOPE VI, the program that financed much of the widespread public-housing reconstruction seen across the country and in New Orleans over the past few decades.

Said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a written statement: "Choice Neighborhood recognizes that we must link affordable housing with quality education, public transportation, good jobs and safe streets. It is the next generation of neighborhood revitalization that not only transforms distressed housing but heals entire communities."

HANO, in turn, has positioned its plans for the Iberville as a new and improved way to redevelop public housing. Past renovations have been criticized in the past for displacing many residents but bringing few back and for focusing solely on the public-housing sites to the exclusion of their surroundings, effectively creating islands of gleaming new apartments that sit inside blighted, high-poverty neighborhoods.

At Iberville, HANO plans to do construction in phases so that 40 percent of the complex's current households, roughly 450, can move directly from their current apartments to renovated places. And as the grant requires, it will replace each of the Iberville's 821 apartments with rentals that carry public-housing level rents. Another third will be market-rate apartments and a middle tier will be aimed at households will more moderate incomes.

Plans also aim to build up Iberville's residents by delivering targeted services to put the complex's children into high-quality schools and childcare while their parents secure better jobs, further their education and receive regular medical care.

Over the grant's 54-month period, Urban Strategies, the social-services arm of McCormack Baron, will follow each original Iberville household and track progress toward specific goals named in the proposal. For example, the plan aims to reduce the number of residents suffering from asthma while considerably improving the number of adults with GEDs and employment income and boosting the number of children in early-childhood classes and high-performing schools.

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