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Hartford Housing Plan Wins Grant
March 5, 2003
By OSHRAT CARMIEL, And MARK PAZNIOKAS Courant Staff Writers

Hartford was awarded a much-hoped-for $20 million grant Monday to demolish the Dutch Point housing project and build a mix of rental and owner-occupied housing in its place.

U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd notified Mayor Eddie A. Perez by phone Monday evening that the city was a recipient of the competitive Hope VI grant by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help raze the complex in the Sheldon/Charter Oak neighborhood.

"The mayor just got off the phone with Chris Dodd. We're very excited. It will give a big boost to the mayor's homeownership effort in that neighborhood," said Matt Hennessy, the mayor's chief of staff.

Hartford's selection for the grant was good news for more than the obvious reasons. With the Bush administration proposing to eliminate the HOPE VI program next year, Hartford's application - put in last December - was the city's last chance to get such large-scale federal money for the $52.6 million project.

"Oh, my God," said Carol Coburn, executive director of the Coalition to Strengthen the Sheldon/Charter Oak Neighborhood Inc., her voice quivering when told of the news. "Wait till the residents find out!"

Coburn's neighborhood group collaborated with Dutch Point residents and the housing authority on the grant application, spending the better part of two years drafting a remodeling plan for the complex and piecing together a formal request to HUD to help pay for it.

"Tonight's party night. Oh, my God," Coburn said. "I'm just going to have to drive through Hartford now and find people. I'm shaking."

City and congressional leaders lobbied hard for the grant, which would kick-start the plan to raze the Depression-era complex, which has a high crime rate. The plan calls for replacing the maze of 186 barracks-like units with 150 apartments and 50 owner-occupied units in a mix of row houses and duplexes built on a traditional street grid. Plans call for 154 units on the cleared site; the rest would go nearby.

The grant application was being watched closely because Dutch Point occupies increasingly valuable real estate. It sits to the south of downtown, near the Colt Armory complex and four blocks from the Adriaen's Landing redevelopment.

The site is between the sweeping, manicured lawn of the Church of the Good Shepherd, on Wyllys Street, and Colt Park.

The new Dutch Point would have clearly defined yards, a marked contrast to the current narrow expanse of common areas, haunted by drug dealers.

Perez met with Dodd and others in Washington about the grant application last month during the U.S. Conference of Mayors' mid-winter meeting. He met with commissioners at HUD who told him that the Hope VI program, created in 1993 to help demolish and rehabilitate the nation's distressed public housing projects, was likely in its last year.

President Bush's 2004 budget proposal includes no money for HOPE VI, which received $574 million in 2002.

Hennessy said HUD leaders seemed impressed by the mayor's commitment to boosting homeownership in the city, and that may have helped Hartford's application get noticed among the more than 40 others nationwide.


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