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Neighborhood boost

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By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Winston-Salem office of the New York City-based Local Initiatives Support Corp. is getting $200,000 over three years from Wachovia Corp., part of a $1.5 million grant by the Charlotte-based bank company to LISC offices in 12 cities and rural areas throughout the United States.

Winston-Salem LISC, which works to strengthen community groups that focus on reviving ailing neighborhoods, will use the funds for general operations.

The group aims to raise $1.66 million in private funds over the next three years, says Paula McCoy, program director.

A three-year strategic plan also calls for it to help local community development corporations build 300 residential units, and to boost the operations of six groups it already funds, push Congress not to eliminate funds to build the capacity of community-development groups, and develop a comprehensive community-development strategy in a pilot neighborhood.

“The whole goal is to raise the community development industry to another level, to make it more visible, to make it a viable and critical part of the agenda for the city,” she says. “We believe that as we bring people together and help them to really understand what community development is, we can help them see it as very important to the vitality and health of the whole community.”

A key goal, she says, will be to create a “neighborhood of choice.”
While LISC has not yet selected the neighborhood, it likely will pick one that already has been the focus of housing development with “scale and impact,” she says.

One neighborhood under consideration is Gateway Commons, a project recently completed by the Winston-Salem Housing Authority using Hope VI funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help eliminate poverty and create mixed-income neighborhoods.

The pilot project would be designed to integrate housing with other “quality-of-life” indicators such as education, health, safety and recreation that “make people want to choose a neighborhood,” McCoy says.

The LISC office, which also has secured a three-year, $300,000 grant from the Winston-Salem Foundation, has been working with six community-development groups to assess their board development, fund development, financial management, real estate development, human resources and staff development, and executive director skills and competence.

Now, the office will take a second look at those groups to measure their progress in each category, and focus on further strengthening them in areas in which they have not grown, McCoy says.

The office also is working hard to keep Congress from eliminating so-called Section 4 funds from HUD that generate roughly $30 million a year that LISC offices overall use to build the capacity of community-development groups.

Through its own fundraising, Winston-Salem LISC already makes grants averaging $60,000 to each of six community-development groups.

Other LISC offices getting Wachovia grants, which range from $10,000 to $240,000, include Hartford, Conn., and surrounding areas; Jacksonville, Fla.; Newark and Jersey City, N.J.; New York City; Philadelphia; Richmond, Va.; South Florida, including Miami and Palm Beach County; Washington, D.C.; and rural communities that are part of LISC’s national rural program.

Since 1998, Wachovia had made more than $4 million in grants and $21.5 million in loans available to LISC for community-building effots, and has invested another $25.5 million in the National Equity Fund, a LISC affiliate, to build affordable rental housing.

That combined investment of $51 million has produced 5.8 million square feet of commercial space and 42,000 affordable homes and apartment units, spurring $3.8 billion in total investment from all sources.

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