HUD announces second Choice Neighborhoods grant for Brownsville

Laundry hangs out on a clothesline to dry at Victoria Gardens Housing in Brownsville Tuesday. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

Brownsville has again received a HUD Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant, according to a Nov. 22 announcement by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A view along Southmost Boulevard in Brownsville Tuesday afternoon. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

The Housing Authority of the City of Brownsville was awarded $450,000 out of $3.6 million in CNP funds distributed equally among eight cities nationally. This is the second time in five years Brownsville has been awarded a grant under the 10-year-old program. Brownsville, which was designated a Choice Neighborhoods community in 2016, is the only city along the U.S.-Mexico border to be so named, according to HACB Chief Executive Officer Carla Mancha.

“To be successful twice at this very competitive grant, it’s amazing,” she said.

HACB used its first CNP grant toward planning the redevelopment of Buena Vida, HACB’s oldest public housing property. Part of the redevelopment strategy involved construction of Poinsettia Gardens at Boca Chica for the families of Buena Vida, which will be demolished and then rebuilt. Now with the second CNP grant, HACB will do the same thing with Victoria Gardens in the Southmost/International neighborhood of Brownsville.

Victoria Gardens is the city’s third oldest public housing property. Again, HACB and the city will use the HUD grant to map out the strategic redevelopment of the neighborhood, based largely on input from the families who live there, Mancha said.

“The goal for us is to revitalize, redevelop that area,” she said. “The planning grant is going to help (HACB) and the city of Brownsville to not only to work together but bring in the community, bring in the families, to discuss how we want to move forward in the redevelopment of that area — how we want it to look, what type of housing we want.”

Again, the families of Victoria Gardens will need a place to live during the demolition and redevelopment phases of that neighborhood. That’s where HACB’s restoration and renovation of El Jardin Hotel, which is underway, comes in.

“The families of Victoria Gardens are going to help us with this transformation plan for the next two years,” Mancha said. “These families will have the first-choice opportunity to move to El Jardin. Those families will have the option to move back to Victoria Gardens if they want to, but once we remodel the El Jardin it’s going to be beautiful. No one will want to leave from there.”

A view at the entrance of Victoria Gardens Brownsville Housing Tuesday. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

She said the CNP program is all about creating choices and opportunities for the families who live in the neighborhoods.

“We have three other housing developments in this footprint, so we have quite a few families who live in this neighborhood,” Mancha said. “We’re just very excited to be given the opportunity to do this again with the city of Brownsville and in partnership with HUD, and we look forward to all the great ideas and the transformation plan that we’re going to develop for the neighborhood.”

Mancha said City Commissioner Nurith Galonsky, whose precinct includes the Southmost/International neighborhood, has been engaged from the start in helping HACB submit successful grant applications to HUD. Mancha also praised HACB Chairman Luis Eduardo Gardu ñ o and HACB’s board of directors for their leadership, and said it couldn’t have happened without the help of Mayor Mendez and the city commission.

“We cannot do anything without our leadership,” Mancha said. “It’s going to be two years of building and working together, and that’s what community is all about.”