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Over two hours into the first public meeting for the Capitol Hill Strong Neighborhoods Initiative Tuesday, most of the neighbors were still there and still coming up with ideas for what that part of the city needs.

After years of feeling like they were on their own, south side neighbors just across the Oklahoma River from downtown OKC can see new possibilities.

Shannon Entz processing neighbors ideas
Shannon Entz, senior planner for the City of Okla City processed the many ideas neighbors had (Brett Dickerson)

Shannon Entz, senior planner for the City of Oklahoma City processed the ideas in a careful and welcoming way at the newly-remodeled Capitol Hill Metropolitan Library branch at SW 26th and Hudson.

Community leaders publicized the event in English and Spanish. Some neighbors who were hesitant to speak English still participated fully in Spanish because of a number of bilingual leaders who were there to translate both ways.

Ideas

Capitol Hill has had a Hispanic population since statehood, but the numbers of Latinos in the area have grown exponentially over the last several decades.

And so, one of the most persistent ideas was the importance of a plaza, a key element of community life in even the smallest towns in Mexico and the rest of Latin America.

In addition, Capitol Hill neighbors talked about other ideas that included:

• community solar energy
• community garden
• community commercial-grade kitchen
• after-school programs
• sidewalk projects
• address safety issues for the busiest streets
• expanded bus stops and transfer points for public transit

The area was one of two chosen for SNI because of possibility, but also because of need.

Meeting participants seemed very aware of their neighborhood needs and were open about them.

• Care for the homeless
• Code enforcement of alcohol sales
• Code enforcement of the ways businesses handle trash
• Stray pets

In coming meetings, the ideas will be refined further.

“Thrilled”

Donna Cervantes, director of Calle dos Cinco/Historic Capitol Hill business association said she was “thrilled” by the response of neighbors who filled the room.

“This is a sign of the pent-up need in this part of the city,” said Cervantes. “We are excited to have a say in development.”

Capitol Hill civic leader Gloria Torres was pleased, too.

“We were hoping for a good number of neighborhood people to show up and they did,” she said. “Each contributed something here tonight.”

The initiative

The initiative is made possible by a $1.5 million Community Development Block Grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.

Capitol Hill SNI meeting neighbors
Local elected officials and a broad spectrum of neighbors turned out for the first SNI meeting (Brett Dickerson)

The City of Oklahoma City planning department does the work of initiating and processing input from neighbors and then developing a plan to present to HUD and the City Council.

According to city planning staff, once the process of getting input for first-year projects in the two neighborhoods is completed, the 2018-19 HUD Consolidation Action Plan will be presented to the City Council for consideration in the spring.

Project work should begin in the summer.

Previous success

Classen Ten Penn and Classen’s North Highland Parked were two neighborhoods previously chosen for revitalization.

The investment from HUD and the city spurred private investment in multiples of the original seed money in those neighborhoods.

Free Press covered the acceptance of the two new neighborhoods into SNI in December:

With that as proof of just how effective the program can be, the two newest neighborhoods’ residents are excited about the focus of the city planning Department’s efforts.

The Capitol View neighborhood is just to the east and northeast of the Oklahoma Capitol complex.

The Capitol Hill area targeted includes the old, original Capitol Hill shopping area along SW 25th Street between Walker and Robinson. It also includes the parts of SW 29th Street with the heaviest retail development to date.

Capitol Hill Neighbors give ideas SNI
It was standing room only at the Capitol Hill Library as neighbors gathered to give their ideas for the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative (Brett Dickerson)

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