Jonathan J. Higuera

HUD grant for METRO development?

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The METRO light rail has been touted for doing many things to positively impact the transportation needs of the region it serves. But can it really help reduce obesity, poverty and exposure to heat among the residents who live along its path? 

According to some government officials and METRO proponents, it certainly can if the planning for development is executed properly and the projects become reality. By studying the needs of residents along the light rail path, the resulting commercial development could provide a big boost to their living standards, contend economic development officials. 

 To help with that planning, the city of Phoenix received a $2.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to get planning processes funded and under way. 

 The HUD grant, announced in November, will be used to fund research, short- and long-range planning, community engagement and development incentives “to set the foundation that will encourage commercial and housing development along the Light Rail,” according to the city’s press release. 

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 The “Reinvent Phoenix” project was chosen among competing proposals from communities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The Phoenix grant was one of the bigger awards out of the $96 million HUD distributed to projects throughout the country. 

 “We chose the city of Phoenix’s proposal because the city not only had a great plan but the right community partnerships and vision for success,” HUD regional administrator Ophelia Basgal said during the grant’s public announcement. 

 Community partners also contributed by raising the capital to meet the matching grant. They included Arizona State University, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Mountain Park Health Center, Phoenix Union High School District, Local First Arizona, Maricopa Community Colleges and Native American Connections. 

 Flanked by City Manager David Cavazos, Mayor-elect Greg Stanton, Congressman Ed Pastor and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, Basgal explained the grant’s overarching goal to provide residents with safe, convenient access to quality, affordable housing, well-paying jobs, education and training programs, fresh food and healthcare services. 

 “It is with partners like Mayor Gordon and Congressman Ed Pastor that we’ve proven that small investments can yield big results for our economy,” said Basgal, “and that this debate isn’t about government that’s big or small. It’s about government that’s smart.”

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