The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is awarding the Tulsa Housing Authority and the city a $30 million grant in an effort to revitalize west Tulsa’s Eugene Field neighborhood.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson announced Thursday that Eugene Field, located east of Southwest Boulevard and south of the Arkansas River, is one of five neighborhoods nationwide that will receive a combined federal investment of $144 million. The money is dedicated to redeveloping “severely distressed” public or assisted housing and to revitalize surrounding neighborhoods, a news release states.
The grants are provided through HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods program, which leverages public and private dollars to support locally driven strategies addressing struggling neighborhoods, according to the agency’s website. They reportedly are expected to stimulate $1 billion from other sources.
The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation also has committed a $12 million affordable housing grant toward the Eugene Field revitalization project, which will include replacing two low-income apartment complexes.
Although the Zarrow Foundation has made other investments in affordable housing, the one-time grant to the Tulsa Housing Authority is an unprecedented move by the philanthropy organization, according to its executive director, Bill Major.
“It’s a neighborhood that we feel is a great investment in terms of trying to make it better and affordable because it’s close to downtown,” Major said. “And this gift helped to leverage and make possible the federal funds.”
Additionally, the George Kaiser Family Foundation is contributing a loan of up to $27 million to put toward the project’s total housing development budget, which is estimated to be $127 million.
This time, the city of Tulsa and the Tulsa Housing Authority partnered with more than 30 community agencies to compete for the $30 million, Mayor G.T. Bynum said in a statement.
“This initiative is a marquee example of the way we are breaking down old silos and working together as Tulsans to move our city forward,” Bynum said.
Councilor Jeannie Cue, whose district includes Eugene Field, said the project will replace the Brightwater Apartments, a subsidized housing facility at 2202 S. Phoenix Ave., and Riverview Park, a public housing complex at 2212 S. Jackson Ave.
Another goal is to entice a grocery store to the neighborhood, which is one of the city’s food deserts. Currently, its closest options are a QuikTrip and a locally owned convenience store.
“There’s never a guarantee to bring in a grocery store, as you know with our battle in north Tulsa to get them one, but that’s a priority,” Cue said. “We want our residents to have fresh foods and produce and be able to buy things at a reasonable price.”
Renderings of the revitalization project provided by the Tulsa Housing Authority show a well-maintained business with the title “Harvest Market” listed on the front of the building. The images depict organizers’ overall vision of what the neighborhood will become.
The renderings also show a community center, which Cue said is expected to be built in a corridor near the Salvation Army’s West Mabee Boys & Girls Club on South Olympia Avenue.
Due to its proximity to downtown and several highways, Eugene Field is an ideal location for raising a family, she said. Like the rest of west Tulsa during the past several decades, however, the area has experienced a slow exodus of residents and suffered from the growing popularity of nearby suburbs.
Morale recently has improved among locals, thanks in large part to a nonprofit organization’s mission to attract more commercial businesses across the Arkansas River.
Cue said the revitalization of Eugene Field brings west Tulsa one step closer to once again being an attractive destination.
“We’re going to be a competitor for great housing, great entertainment and easy access,” she said.
Officials did not have a timeline for the project. Tulsa Housing Authority spokeswoman Saraa Kami said HUD representatives are expected to make an official announcement about the grant in Tulsa on Aug. 3.