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Architecture college lands $400,000

By Julie Wetmore
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, December 8, 2003
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Federal grant will help students redesign, improve South Tucson

Students and faculty in the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture are revitalizing neighborhoods in South Tucson, thanks to a $394,225 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The grant was awarded last month as part of the national Community Outreach Partnership Centers competition. Only 20 grants totaling $6.87 million were presented to colleges and universities.

The UA was one of five schools chosen in the area of Futures Demonstration Programs.

"The recipients of these grants are key members of their communities, and this will further enable them to support innovative community partnerships that strengthen the economic and social infrastructure of nearby distressed neighborhoods," said Mel Martinez, secretary of HUD, in a press release.

The UA was chosen based on work with the local community, said Michael Freedber, Office of Policy Development and Research, in an e-mail to Charles "Corky" Poster, an architecture professor.

More than 175 applications for COPC funding were submitted from around the country.

According to HUD, the UA received the award in view of extent of community need, quality of activities, level of neighborhood and local government participation, funds from other sources and overall commitment.

The UA's proposal was written by Marilyn Robinson, a graduate student in the school of planning, and Poster.

"I was really glad that we got the grant, but I realized that the real work is just beginning. It's a big challenge, but very exciting," Robinson said.

The grant will utilize the skills of students and faculty in the school of planning, which is slated for elimination under Focused Excellence.

The money will be used to establish and operate a demonstration project in housing design, specifically in the South Tucson Empowerment Zone.

The EZ, called Colonia, was established by the federal government and gives residents of a 16 square mile section of the poorest parts of the city tax reductions to help improve quality of life, Poster said.

This zone includes a population of 50,000 people, 60 percent of whom are Hispanic, and 15,000 households, more than a third of whom live in poverty.

Colonia, a town without developmental regulations and basic services, is in need of investment, Poster said.

Only about 36 percent of the people living in the EZ own their own house, compared to 53 percent in the city of Tucson.

The proposal calls for more affordable housing to increase home ownership and decrease rent. It also calls for housing that is more accessible for the elderly and disabled living in the area.

Students and faculty in the college will meet these goals during the plan's three-year time period.

According to the proposal, students will create a database of vacant land available for development by sending students out to the area and by looking at on-line aerial views of South Tucson.

Participants will also talk to existing neighborhood organizations and associations.

Students and faculty will work with developers, builders, and city and county officials to find ways to use cheap resources and technology effectively.

Money from the grant will help host symposia, workshops, conferences, exhibits, publications, and the housing development.

College curriculum is being reformatted to focus on topics that the grant addresses so students can earn credit.

Poster teaches a class on community design and will tailor the course to include projects involving the grant's goals.

This gives students a realistic situation to learn from, rather than a theoretical, Poster said.

About 100 students, almost 20 percent of the college, will work on the project each year.

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