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Woodlawn to become pilot in federal jobs, housing program

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U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan is expected to be in Chicago Tuesday to announce a $30 million grant for neighborhood revitalization in Woodlawn.

The federal housing agency says it’s changing its approach to reviving poverty-stricken neighborhoods. In the 1990s, under the Clinton Administration, HUD administered HOPE VI grants. The money was used nationally to tear down public housing developments deemed as distressed. In Chicago, the controversial program funded the demolition of high rises to make way for mixed-income housing.

Now the Obama Administration is touting what it calls the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative and Chicago is one of the five pilot cities. The program is supposed to integrate programs that address the needs for education, jobs and housing. The $30 million award in Woodlawn will go toward housing, both affordable and market rate, along with retail.

Much of the award will go to Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), a nonprofit that is redeveloping Grove Parc on Cottage Grove Avenue. A few years ago HUD wanted to foreclose the dilapidated property. The low-income residents fought. Last year HUD struck a deal with POAH for a $33 million redevelopment effort. POAH has partnered with other local community organizations to redevelop the area at large.

The HUD announcement will come on the heels of another major South Side initiative. Last week the city signed an agreement with the University of Chicago that pledges the school to usher in neighborhood revitalization in surrounding neighborhoods.

The Woodlawn neighborhood lies just south of the university.

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