MERIDEN — The Meriden Housing Authority and the city have filed another application to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for a Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant.
Instead of asking for $20 million as it did last year, the MHA and the city are seeking $18 million because two of the projects listed in the original grant request, 24 Colony St. and Meriden Commons I, are finished or nearly completed.
The Choice Neighborhood grant is designed to help implement a plan “that transforms distressed HUD housing and addresses the challenges in the surrounding neighborhood,” according to HUD’s website.
In Meriden, the Choice Neighborhood has been defined as “six census tracts centered (on) the city’s historic downtown containing the targeted Mills public housing complex,” the application reads.
In 2015, HUD received 33 applications for implementation grants. Five communities — Atlanta, Georgia; Kansas City, Missouri; Memphis, Tennessee; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Sacramento, California — were selected to receive nearly $30 million each.
Last year, Boston, Massachusetts, Camden, New Jersey, Denver, Colorado, Louisville, Kentucky, and St. Louis. Missouri, were among the big winners. This year, competition is less than 20 miles away — New Haven has applied for a $30-million grant. Meriden was not selected last year, but received a $500,000 planning grant to plan the demolition and redevelopment of the Mills Memorial Apartment complex.
The application lists three main categories: people, housing and neighborhoods. The people initiative focuses on services, such as preschool, job training and mental health services.
The housing initiative aims to “create a mix of housing types and attractive styles that serve the identified needs of current and future residents at all income levels … develop housing that best leverages downtown Meriden’s unique assets; and ... ensure that every Mills household has first choice of new housing.” A total of 494 housing units will be built downtown in the next five years.
The neighborhood initiative focuses on “transform(ing) downtown Meriden into a safe, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood of choice with connectivity to employment and education” in the region, according to the grant application. Projects involved in the neighborhood portion of the plan include restoring two-way traffic downtown, cleaning up blighted and brownfield sites, creating a beautification program, and free WiFi downtown.
MHA Executive Director Robert Cappelletti said Monday the new application is nearly identical to the one submitted last year, with the exception of the housing projects under construction or completed. It also eliminates a mixed-use proposal at 143 W. Main St. because it will not include affordable housing.
“It’s hard to compete with the larger cities,” Cappelletti said.
MHA commissioner Lawrence Kendzior, the former city manager, suggested Cappelletti invite the state’s Congressional team to sit down and review the plan with the city and MHA. HUD will announce grant winners in July 2018.