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by Angie Manning
When Lake Charles was awarded the $40 Million Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant this summer to redevelop Lloyd Oaks and the Mid City neighborhood, it was a gamechanger for the entire city. In order to obtain the grant, the Lake Charles Housing Authority and the City of Lake Charles worked with the Community Foundation, Mid City Transformation Committee members from Just Imagine SWLA, the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, and community advocates to prepare the complex and competitive grant process that would transform the area immediately surrounding the Prien Lake Mall. Through this grant, a revitalized, more vibrant and diverse space for housing in the heart of the city will come to fruition due to the hard work of everyone who champions the future of Lake Charles.
“Having safe, attainable housing for residents is a priority of the City of Lake Charles. It is because of a multi-layered partnership that we have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to revitalize and transform this neighborhood in a way that is positive for all. The redevelopment will create expanded economic and quality of life opportunities, which will in turn create additional benefits for the entire City,” said Mayor Hunter of the City of Lake Charles.
HRI Communities, LLC (HRI) and Integrand will be the lead developers of the housing component of the Mid City neighborhood transformation. Since Hurricanes Laura and Delta, the Lloyd Oaks housing community has remained in disrepair. The housing initiative will bring approximately 550 high-quality, safe, well-managed mixed-income units while providing a 1 for 1 replacement of the current 240-distressed units. The community will also include community spaces, a fitness center, parks and welcoming green spaces, access to quality schools, economic hubs with commercial activity, and added public safety measures.
The people component of the Mid City neighborhood transformation will be led by Urban Strategies, Inc. (USI), who specializes in creating successful and thriving neighborhoods that include equitable pathways to social and economic mobility for families. USI was founded in 1978 and is a leader in the field of community development nationwide. USI works with housing authorities, city government officials, property managers, developers, and stakeholders to support neighborhood conditions and human service needs.
“Our role in the Mid City Transformation CNI will be to support the children, families, and greater community through strategic community engagement, results driven planning and implementation, and equitable collaboration to support the Lloyd Oaks/Dixie Drive transformation, as well as being a critical partner for the neighborhood strategies through our Family Supportive Services,” said Erika Wilson, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for USI.
As an example of success in Louisiana, USI and HRI previously partnered in New Orleans on the Iberville/Treme Choice Neighborhood to implement economic, education, health, and community engagement strategies for residents. HRI and USI collaborated with federal housing officials and the greater community to implement a reinvented housing community without losing the context and connection to the city’s second-to-none culture. The strategies implemented resulted in strengthening access to health care for uninsured and underinsured residents and coordinating health and wellness workshops. Notable results include: 90+% of adult residents now have health insurance; 93% of youth are engaged in enrichment programs; 922 mixed income units created across the New Orleans portfolio, and the average annual household income is now $25,271, an increase of 7%.
“USI is excited to extend our commitment to the people of Louisiana from our work in New Orleans and now Lake Charles,” said Wilson.
In order to do this work, they will soon be adding staff to their team to create more synergy and progress for the development. USI operates with the understanding that those closest to the problem are best equipped for the solution, so they hire local team members. Open positions include a Senior Project Manager, as well as a Family Support team which includes a Family Support Manager and 3 Family Support/Mobility Specialists, Education and Workforce Specialists, and a Resident Outreach Worker, who must be a Lloyd Oaks resident. Visit www.urbanstrategiesinc.org/join-our-team to apply. For more information on Just Imagine SWLA projects, go to www.JustImagineSWLA.com.