Officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are visiting the Ardendale urban village in Melrose East today, as they begin a four-city tour of finalists competing for a $30 million federal Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant.
Baton Rouge, through the East Baton Rouge Housing Authority and East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, was one of 27 cities to apply for the prestigious grant and one of just four finalists.
If awarded, the federal money will be used to help fund construction of a 500-unit multifamily complex developed by the Housing Authority on the Ardendale campus, which is currently home to the McKay Automotive Training Center and the EBR School System’s Career and Technical Education Center.
“We are all on our best behavior today,” said RDA President and CEO Chris Tyson, during a lunchtime speech to the Baton Rouge Rotary Club before heading back to Ardendale to meet with HUD officials.
It will likely be several weeks if not more before Baton Rouge officials find out if the city will receive the federal grant. Tyson says Congress actually allocated enough money to the HUD program this year to fund $30 million awards to all four finalist cities, should they qualify.
“They told us they could award money to all four finalists or to none or to a subset,” he said. “This is the first year they’ve had enough money to do that.”
For Ardendale, the award would go a long way toward bringing the long-planned and much-needed residential component to the urban village, which began as a project of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, not the RDA. The vision for the community is to create a mixed-use urban village in the middle of a blighted area.
Should Baton Rouge not receive the HUD grant, the Housing Authority’s multifamily complex could still go forward, says Tyson, but it would take a lot longer.