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Peoria Housing Authority looks for community input on Harrison Homes, 61605 revitalization plan

Peoria Housing Authority CEO Armeca Crawford, at lectern, said the agency wants the community to give input on the revitalization plan for Harrison Homes and surrounding area.
Camryn Cutinello
Peoria Housing Authority CEO Armeca Crawford, at lectern, said the agency wants the community to give input on the revitalization plan for Harrison Homes and surrounding area.

The Peoria Housing Authority wants resident input to revitalize Harrison Homes and surrounding community.

The agency will use a $500,000 Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant from the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development to develop a plan that will include building new, mixed-income housing in the area.

During a news conference on Thursday, Peoria Housing Authority CEO Armeca Crawford said this will be a community-driven initiative. The authority will host forums to gather input from residents, business owners and community partners in the area.

“Neighborhoods are the unit of change that can have the greatest impact on people's lives,” Crawford said. “Changing life trajectories for the lowest income families, creating greater racial equity, improving health care, health outcomes, and increased upward mobility is what we'll have an opportunity to achieve through this grant.”

The plan will be used to apply for an implementation grant of up to $50 million. Six to seven of those grants are awarded each year, which Peoria Mayor Rita Ali said makes the process very competitive.

Crawford said the officials are optimistic about their chances of earning a grant, but are exploring other possibilities to fund the initiative in case they do not get the additional grant.

“Because this is a priority of ours, it is not an option, it is a priority, with or without the additional funding through the Choice Neighborhood Initiative,” she said.

Daurice Coaster, a resident of the 61605 zip code, said including south side residents input is essential for the project’s success.

“Over the years, I have seen programs that come in to try to help do things for us, for the residents of the Harrison Homes, for 610605” she said. “I have known of programs that have done things to us. And now finally, with this initiative, someone wants to come down to the south end and help do something with us.”

She said the grant will mean a transformation of the entire community.

“We live on the south end. We know what our needs are,” she said. “Think about it. Do you want to be placed in a situation as a homeowner, resident, renter, where other people think they know better what you need, then you do?”

Former Harrison Homes resident Natasha Yarbrough said she hopes the community eventually will be restored to where it was when she grew up there, adding when she was a kid she remembers having a grocery store, library and a laundromat by the homes.

“The residents now are experiencing something completely different from my experience,” she said.

Crawford said the Peoria Housing Authority (PAA) also will use a $1.2 million grant to improve safety at the Harrison Homes, including addressing lead paint issues, and testing for radon and asbestos.

As part of the plan, she said the current Harrison Homes will be demolished and replaced with new housing.

“Yes, we're demolishing it at some point, but we have to get past the next two years,” she said. “But the residents still deserve to live in safe, decent, sanitary housing.”

She said PAA also is looking to improve workforce development by addressing barriers such as transportation and childcare.

Camryn Cutinello is a reporter and digital content director at WCBU. You can reach Camryn at cncutin@illinoisstate.edu.