Housing Authority plans to redevelop West Rock without grant

Redeveloping the West Rock and Quinnipiac Terrace housing complexes remains the New Haven Housing Authority’s top priority, whether it obtains federal grants or not.

The Quinnipiac Terrace Implementation Committee recently selected Boston-based Goody, Clancy & Associates and New Haven’s Boroson Kenneth Architects to create a master plan for their development project. But while West Rock leaders recognize the need to choose a master planner, they have yet to reach a consensus.

“No matter what ends up happening, West Rock residents really need to hold a meeting to select a master planner,” said Ward 30 Alderman Nathan Joyner, who represents the West Rock neighborhood.

The West Rock complex lies in the northwest corner of New Haven, and Quinnipiac Terrace is on the Quinnipiac River in the Fair Haven neighborhood. As many as 1,000 housing units could potentially occupy both sites.

Joyner held a meeting last week to inform residents about the project and discuss possible consulting firms, one of which the West Rock Implementation Committee must select.

Formed in 1999, the West Rock Implementation Committee includes nine neighborhood residents, two New Haven Housing Authority officials, two New Haven officials, the mayor of Hamden, and the president of Southern Connecticut State University. The authority must ratify any of the committee’s initiatives.

Ward 28 Alderman Brian Jenkins, who also represents West Rock, leads a group of residents who would like to offer the position to Wendell Harp’s New Haven-based Cambridge Associates. Harp’s firm was involved in unsuccessful bids for the HOPE VI grant the past two years.

But Joyner does not want to give Harp another chance.

“There are still jobs for Harp with this project, but not as the master planner,” Joyner said.

Both Jenkins and Joyner are committee members. Jenkins did not respond to telephone messages yesterday.

Although Joyner declined to name specific firms he supports, he said he hopes a minority contractor receives the contract.

“Of course, we would love to see a black or Hispanic picked,” Joyner said. “You would hope it would give the chance for a minority contractor to grow.”

If the committee fails to pick a consultant, an application for this year’s HOPE VI grant would be in jeopardy.

But the HOPE VI grant may not even be necessary. Housing Authority Interim Executive Director Robert Solomon said New Haven will not wait for HOPE VI funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to proceed with the redevelopments.

HUD awarded over $491 million last year in 15 HOPE VI revitalization grants, with a maximum of $35 million per grant, and early figures suggest that nearly $600 million could be allocated this year. But Solomon said each grant may be worth just $15 million. The highly competitive HOPE VI revitalization grants allow for the replacement of blighted public housing apartment buildings with town house layouts.

“There are many other funding options available to us aside from the HOPE VI,” Solomon said.

One source of funding stems from New Haven’s “Moving to Work” status, granted by HUD in October 2001. The designation, offered to just 32 housing agencies nationwide, allows the authority to collect all funding sources together into one account.

“Our moving-to-work status makes our lives a lot easier,” Solomon said.

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