Choice Neighborhoods Update - Fall 2018

In 2018 the City of Tucson again applied for a Choice Neighborhoods Planning and Action Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and this time were successful!! The Oracle Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (Oracle Choice) is a place-based, comprehensive transformation initiative and focuses on a 2.6-square -mile area located less than two miles from the central business district in Tucson.  The Oracle Choice community includes eight small neighborhoods that are in need of community assistance.  Oracle Choice is designated as a "high stress" community, based on the City's 'Poverty and Urban Stress Index'.  The Oracle community was once a vital automobile gateway into Tucson filled with motor court and entertainment venues, it was the site of booming tourism and dubbed "Miracle Mile" by Arizona Highways magazine.  Tucson House was originally built as a 17-story luxury apartment building in 1963.  However, the area began a steady decline as travelers bypassed the area on Interstate 10 and the numerous motels became a magnet for prostitution, drugs, and crime.  The once luxurious Tucson House was left abandoned, and eventually became Public Housing in the 1980s and represents 27% of the City's total public housing inventory.  The decline of the Oracle area has continued to this day, as current neighborhood characteristics include an exceedingly high rate of vacant/abandoned homes, a lack of affordable housing, a lack of opportunities for youth, high unemployment rates, concentrated poverty, chronic crime, social disorganization and residential instability.  The Oracle area currently faces many challenges for community and econimic development. 

The award of this $1.3 million Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant will fund activities to revitalize the target area and to prepare to submit an application for a $30 million Choice Nieghborhoods Implementation Grant for redevelopment of the TUcson House and additional neighborhood improvements.  You can view the 2018 grant application below. 

Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant Application - 2018  (click to view)   

Previous Applications

In 2016 and 2017 the City of Tucson applied for a Choice Neighborhoods Planning and Action Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  The City's applications were not selected for funding in this national competition on either of those attempts.  The application incorporated a physical needs assessment of a 408 unit, seventeen-story public housing building that represents 27% of the local PHA public housing portfolio, the Tucson House.  The physical needs assessment resulted in a "severely distressed" designation, due to the antiquated systems in the building.  This elderly and disabled high rise public housing building is located in a high-stress neighborhood with an adopted revitalization area plan, the Oracle Area Revitalization Project (OARP). The Public Housing Authority (PHA) has continued to investigate the options for making the needed improvements to Tucson House, and is considering resubmission of a grant application under the Choice Neighborhoods program.  The intent is to address the aged building systems including HVAC, domestic water distribution, fire suppression, electrical and other special building components. The PHA will also include energy conservation and environmental finishes. The agency will build on the previous Choice Neighborhoods application and will continue to integrate the Tucson House residents and neighbors in collective processes and projects to benefit all area residents. Should HUD provide the opportunity for a Choice Neighborhoods application the PHA will pursue a planning and/or implementation grant.    

Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant Application - 2016 (click to view)

Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant Application - 2017 (click to view)

Project Summary

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant.  This $2 million planning grant opportunity is available to communities that meet threshold criteria associated with aging and distressed public housing.  The City’s 408-unit public housing building known as the Tucson House represents 27% of the City’s public housing inventory and is located in the City’s adopted Oracle Area Revitalization Project (OARP) planning area, qualifying the City to pursue this grant opportunity.

HUD Choice Neighborhoods Program

The local government started investing public funds in this area beginning in the 1980’s when the abandoned 408-unit luxury high rise known as The Tucson House was purchased and became fully operational as public housing for seniors and residents with disabilities.   The surrounding area, which has been struggling to regain its role as a prominent gateway in Tucson’s urban core, has been an ongoing focus and concern of residents, property owners, businesses, and institutions over the years.  In an effort to turn things around, grassroots’ efforts by committed residents led to a City-sponsored planning effort known as the Oracle Area Revitalization Project (OARP).

The purpose of the OARP was to work with stakeholders to identify ways to help encourage the development of:

  • Employment options

  • More services to meet surrounding needs

  • Social and recreational opportunities

  • A variety of housing options

  • Sensitivity to the area’s historic character

  • Overall improvement to the built environment

Oracle Area Revitalization Project Report 

Tucson House - Physical Needs Assessment

Comments and Suggestions are Welcome

The Tucson Choice Neighborhoods Planning Team is interested in your comments and suggestions for this project.  We would especially like to hear your ideas related to Housing, Neighborhoods, Public Safety, Education, Employment and Health.  Please submit your suggestions for these categories, or you may submit general comments about the Tucson Choice Neighborhoods Oracle Revitalization Project here.

If you have any specific questions about the project, please contact Alison Miller at alison.miller@tucsonaz.gov or 520-837-5345.

Meeting Notices and Events

November 28, 2018 Community Stakeholder Kick-off Meeting

At this meeting, stakeholders from all over the Choice Neighborhoods planning area received an overview of the grant as well as past and current planning and revitalization efforts in the community. The Oracle Choice Project is working closely with the Thrive in the '05! crime reduction initiative and the Oracle Area Task Force.

Participatory Exercise: Participants were asked to identify one thing about their neighborhood that they are PROUD of and one thing they would like to IMPROVE. Comments were categorized together to identify common themes.

Oracle Choice Neighborhoods planning efforts will kick off in the first quarter of 2019. Stay tuned for meeting announcements or contact Alison Miller (alison.miller@tucsonaz.gov) to join the mailing list.

February 1, 2016

January 14, 2016

Based on the City’s Poverty and Urban Stress Report, the OARP is a highly stressed urban area and is meets all the criteria for the Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant.  The current poverty rate in the OARP is 45.88%; the crime rate is four times higher than HUD threshold requirements, and the vacancy rate is 15.31%; far exceeding HUD’s criteria for this grant opportunity.  Within the area are seven registered neighborhood associations, over 500 businesses, 27% of the City’s public housing units in a single, obsolete building, and Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus.

Additional Information and Resources

City of Tucson Poverty and Urban Stress Report 

City of Tucson Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Target Area - with OARP  

OARP is strategically positioned within a mile of Tucson’s newly revitalized central business district and modern street car line making it a prime location for comprehensive redevelopment to occur.  The City of Tucson will use the Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant to develop a community-driven, comprehensive Transformation Plan to guide physical and social reinvestment in the area. With the active support of the OARP steering committee, neighborhood associations, two school districts, local health care institutions, Pima Community College, The University of Arizona, Arizona State University  the United Way and others, the goal is to develop cross-sector partnerships and implementation strategies that will provide a comprehensive approach to design the future of the neighborhood and develop a vibrant mixed-use district that provides community assets and basic neighborhood services.

Oracle Area Revitalization Project (OARP):   Project Goals  and  Project Map

City of Tucson Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant Project Team

Tucson Choice Neighborhoods Transformation Team

ChoiceAlison MillerChoice