What is the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CN)?
Choice Neighborhoods is one of President Obama’s signature programs to use federal funds and programs to rebuild neighborhoods of poverty into neighborhoods where people choose to live.

What does Choice Neighborhoods do?
Transform. Create. Leverage. CN helps local leaders transform struggling neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into sustainable, mixed-income communities with quality, affordable housing, safer streets, good schools and improved access to jobs. The HUD program allows for planning the revitalization of severely distressed public housing, ensuring that current public housing residents will be able to benefit by either preserving affordable housing or providing residents with the choice to move to affordable and accessible housing in another existing neighborhood.

Who was chosen to receive the grant?
The City of New Bern and the Housing Authority are co-recipients of the grant. New Bern was one of only nine cities in the country to win this planning grant. Other cities include LA, Philly, Denver, Sacramento, St. Louis, Baton Rouge – mostly much larger cities with greater resources. New Bern is on the map!

Why was New Bern selected?
New Bernians have shown a desire to return the neighborhood back to a thriving mixed-income community with retail shops, businesses, and other amenities. HUD was convinced that New Bern demonstrated the will and the commitment to revitalize this area even if we hadn’t been selected to receive the grant.

What does our grant neighborhood encompass?
The CN grant area includes the Five Points commercial district, the greater Duffyfield residential community, the Walt Bellamy residential community, historic Dryborough community, the Pollock Street McCarthy Square area, and public housing at Craven Terrace and Trent Court.

What is a planning grant?
This grant is to be used to create a Transformation Plan, which is a comprehensive revitalization plan for the entire neighborhood. The grant can be used for the costs to gather and analyze data and information, build broad community involvement, identify challenges, assess housing standards, conduct environmental assessments, develop plans, conduct local outreach, attract funding by private investors, and put together strategies for better housing, better people programs, more jobs, and a better neighborhood.

Can I get some of the planning grant to fix my home or start a local business in the grant area?
No, HUD clearly specifies that the CN planning grant cannot be used for any renovation or construction work – no “brick & mortar” work. Nor can it be used to run community support programs, case management or relocation costs. It can only be used for direct costs associated with planning under the CN planning process.

I heard this grant is only for public housing. Is this true?
Wrong. To be eligible for the grant, the neighborhood must contain public housing units and some of the planning grant will be used to plan for future revitalization of public housing. But the CN program looks at the broader area surrounding public housing. It will address challenges throughout the Greater Five Points and Duffyfield neighborhoods such as safety, access to health care, education, training, transportation, and job opportunities.

We have studied the Five Points area before. What makes this different from the Gateway Renaissance plan or any other plan?
The Gateway Renaissance plan as well as other previous studies and plans will certainly be considered and used as a start point as we move along in the Choice Neighborhoods planning process. Community feedback about the best aspects of previous studies will be very important as we begin this process.

What makes this Choice Neighborhoods grant different from other grants received by the City?
At least four things: (1) the size of the grant will allow for a more comprehensive plan, (2) the focus on all aspects of the neighborhood, (3) the requirement that the Transformation Plan be community-driven, and (4) the opportunity to compete for a future CN implementation grant.

What is an implementation grant?
If we create a viable Transformation Plan with broad community support and all of the right elements, we may be able to compete for a HUD Choice Neighborhoods implementation grant of up to about $30 million. An implementation grant would allow us to implement the Transformation Plan and would attract other investors to our community.

What all will be included in the Transformation Plan?
The plan must address the three broad areas of (1) Neighborhood, (2) People, and (3) Housing. In New Bern, as in most cities, public housing sits within a larger pool of poverty. It does little good to just improve public housing. Rather, this program requires that communities address the entire surrounding neighborhood, including the issues of housing, education, public safety, health, and employment. A viable Transformation Plan may include provisions for mixed income housing; enhanced public safety; the attraction of small business; accessible transportation, walkability, and recreation; improved availability of quality education at all levels; increased job skills training; and increased access to quality health care. Transformation Plans from other Choice Neighborhoods communities can be found here.

What does it mean that the plan be community-driven?
The Choice Neighborhoods program requires that the entire community be involved in developing the revitalization plan. Everyone is a stakeholder!  About 100 volunteer residents, local leaders, and stakeholders such as schools, business owners, churches, nonprofits, and concerned citizens have come together in eight working groups to develop strategies to address many of the challenges in the neighborhood. This interactive process ensures that the priorities and concerns of all stakeholders are considered in the planning process.

What do the eight work groups address?

  • People Task Force (led by Tharesa Lee):  Early Childhood Education & Development; Adult Education & Workforce Development; Health & Wellness
  • Neighborhood Task Force (led by Jeff Ruggieri):  Economic Development; Public Safety; Recreation & Green Spaces; Transportation
  • Housing Task Force  (led by Martin Blaney) — primarily focused on public housing revitalization with a secondary look at neighborhood housing


Where do I find details about what the working groups are discussing?
The work groups’ agendas, meeting minutes, maps, and related data are found at the Resources pull-down tab above under Working Group Meeting Materials.

Where do I find materials from previous community/stakeholder meetings or other CN reports?
Other materials such as slide presentations, data, and reports prepared for New Bern CN are also found at the Resources pull-down tab under General Meeting Materials.

How can I get involved?
A detailed and sustainable Transformation Plan requires a great deal of hard work, compromise, and a unity of effort among all New Bernians who care about the future of our City.  You can join one of the working groups described above.  Participate in CN meetings and events.  Join your local resident association.  Conduct community cleanups, outreach efforts, or programs like the Adopt A Street Program that make your neighborhood a better place to live.  Or reach us through our Contact page and we’ll find a role for you.