The Housing Authority of the City of Fort Myers and the City of Fort Myers have been awarded a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that will help fund a major revitalization project within the greater Dunbar community.
The Greater Dunbar Initiative is a comprehensive transformation plan for the large-scale revitalization of the 37-acre, 199-unit Southward Village into a mixed-income community, which improves existing affordable housing units for residents while expanding choices, creating market-rate amenities, and adding new mixed-income housing to create a resilient and healthy neighborhood moving forward.
HACFM and the City of Fort Myers were joined by nearly 50 community leaders, residents and local stakeholders to participate in HUD’s grant selection process, which included a virtual site visit in April to share this community vision. The Greater Dunbar Initiative was selected as one of just five initiatives across the country, and the only one in Florida, to receive the coveted grant through HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant program.
“This initiative is a prime example of the shared vision we have to move our city forward in an equitable manner,” said Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson. “The City of Fort Myers and the Housing Authority partnered with numerous community agencies to compete for this grant, and we proved that when we work together, we can achieve great things. I am thankful we can now include the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development among the growing alliance of partners to revitalize this Dunbar neighborhood.”
The initiative ties together market preferences, resident needs and community reinvestment to transform the community into an equitable, desirable and proud neighborhood that meets the needs of all residents. The plan includes 375 new mixed-income apartments, supported with new infrastructure and complemented with amenities. In addition to improved housing, The Greater Dunbar Initiative will increase access to services like education, employment and health care. The plan also includes construction of a new grocery store, revitalization of the Farmer’s Market and added retail, dining and entertainment to increase the economic opportunity through healthy lifestyles. Lastly, the transformation will enhance connectivity and visibility through targeted investments along Edison Avenue, Veronica Shoemaker Boulevard and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
“HACFM is excited to receive a grant of this magnitude and be afforded the opportunity to lead the region in promoting urban revitalization through the deconcentrating of poverty,” said Marcia Davis, executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Fort Myers. “The greater Dunbar community is rich in history, surrounds key growth corridors for Fort Myers and acts as a gateway into downtown Fort Myers. This funding will support new opportunities for Dunbar residents and this region as a whole.”
The Greater Dunbar Initiative’s transformation team consists of HACFM and the City of Fort Myers, along with McCormack Baron Salazar, Urban Strategies, The School District of Lee County and many local nonprofits, government entities and community partners that play an integral role in the planning, approval and execution of this initiative.
“We have in our hands everything we need to transform the Southward Village neighborhood into not only a jewel in the crown of Fort Myers, but a regional model for how to develop vibrant neighborhoods, which can contribute to the social and economic health of any community,” said Bruce Strayhorn, HACFM board chairman. “We are grateful to HUD for choosing HACFM to create transformational and positive change in Fort Myers.”
Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is HUD’s signature place-based initiative, and its vision builds on the work that has been done by the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, an interagency partnership between HUD, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and Treasury, since 2009.