The Capitol View and Capitol Hill neighborhoods were selected by the Oklahoma City Council Tuesday for nationally-funded revitalization spending coordinated by the city.
The program is called Strong Neighborhoods Initiative, or SNI. It will invest money, planning and staff time into the two neighborhoods and will also promote more private development.
The stated mission of SNI is:
“Tip declining neighborhoods towards long-term, economic sustainability through rigorous community engagement, holistic planning strategies and thoughtful public and private investments.”
The council’s action was based on recommendations from a review panel of 13 community leaders who chose two neighborhoods out of four finalist neighborhoods.
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.
“This is going to be wonderful. We believe in our neighborhood. The people are like family,” said Avis Hill, a resident in the Capitol View neighborhood just east of the Oklahoma Capitol on NE 23rd Street.
“We look forward to improving our area. We want to make it better for years to come, for the next generation.”
Fred Bryant is another active member of the Capitol View neighborhood.
“The house that we own over there has been in the family for over 20 years,” he said. “I’m the third generation that’s been living over there. The area means a lot to me.”
After years of neglect by the city, banks and developers, members of the Capitol View neighborhood association were excited to show up in strength at the Council meeting.
They poured out into the hallway after the vote and shook hands, hugged and posed for a group photo.
Capitol Hill representatives were just as jubilant as the larger group of Capitol View residents.
They hugged and laughed in the hallway after they witnessed the vote in the Council chamber.
“It’s going to improve the entire area. It’s going to be a place where people are going to want to come to,” said Mary Sosa, south side civic leader.
The Capitol Hill neighborhood starts just south of the Oklahoma River near downtown and covers the area between it and SW 36th Street.
The old shopping area along SW 25th between Walker and Shields was once called Commerce Street and in later years, as the Hispanic presence grew in the area, Calle dos Cinco.
Donna Cervantes is the director for the trade association that promotes the shopping area.
The city has already established that part of 25th street as a business improvement district, or BID to help with redevelopment.
Cervantes believes this is the next step in deeper development of the near south side after the city has worked on streets, landscaping and public improvements.
“This is going to involve more neighborhood input,” she said. “This is to sit down with the neighborhood itself. It shows that we are at that capacity.”
Shannon Entz is the Senior Planner on city staff who has been providing support for SNI.
She said that all four of the finalists had good qualities and so the hardest part about the process was not being able to recommend all four.
So, what was the difference?
She said Capitol Hill and Capitol View had the stronger neighborhood associations that were ready to invest organizing energy into their neighborhoods.
Capitol Hill and Capitol View already have significant private investment in some parts of their neighborhoods which was one of the criteria, said Entz.