From the moment Jamie Collett moved into River West on Thursday, she has been awestruck by the project’s finer points.
“There are just a lot of little details that I noticed,” she said. “I was like, `Somebody really thought this through.’”
A former resident of the Tulsa Housing Authority’s Riverview Park Apartments, she was among those welcomed Tuesday to the $170 million River West, the largest affordable housing endeavor undertaken by the city of Tulsa.
“It’s actually not just the physical buildings, themselves, but also the atmosphere and energy is completely different,” said Collett, who works at a local spa. “I love it.”
Featuring town homes and garden-style, walk-up apartments, the $18 million phase one of the Choice Neighborhoods Implementation (CNI) project is nearing completion. Its 74 apartments have 37 replacement units, 16 tax-credit units and 21 market-rate units.
All are equipped with washers and dryers, a security system and pre-wiring for internet access. They also are Enterprise Green Communities-certified and have access to a tornado shelter.
“As you look around and see the ongoing construction, you are witnessing what we believe will be a historic project for Tulsa, creating an inclusive community that anyone would be proud to call home,” said Aaron Darden, president and CEO of the THA. “They say you can’t be what you can’t see. The vision we have for River West is one that has an apartment building occupied by those who need affordable housing assistance alongside renters who are students, teachers, police officers alongside those who are true market-rate renters…”
The THA and the city were awarded a $30 million CNI grant in 2017 by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to launch the transformation of the Eugene Field neighborhood into River West, a mixed-income community. The Choice Tulsa Transformation Plan includes the construction of 460 mixed-income apartments, a renovated West Tulsa Park, a new full-service grocery store and extensive public infrastructure and storm water improvements.
Along with the CNI grant, the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation has committed a $12 million affordable housing grant and the George Kaiser Family Foundation a $3.25 million grant. The city pledged $26 million in infrastructure improvements and storm water improvements.
Across all phases, the Oklahoma Housing and Finance Agency (OHFA) has established a Choice Neighborhoods set-aside, providing 9 percent low-income housing tax credit funding, the largest tax credit award in the agency’s history.
“This entire project is a testament to the impact we can have when we work together,” said Rick Neal, chairman of the THA Board of Commissioners.
Demolition for phase one began in December 2019 and razed 17 buildings, totaling 90 apartment units. Phase one relocation, encompassing 69 total families, began in April 2019.
Residents of Riverview Park Apartments and Brightwaters Apartments in good standing will receive resources to support their relocation including a dedicated relocation coordinator and case manager, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers for qualifying families, moving costs assistance and transportation support for students provided by Tulsa Public Schools. Residents in good standing also have first right-to-return to the redeveloped River West community, with 50 percent of the total redevelopment committed to returning residents.
“River West will provide a safe and secure home for many Tulsans,” said Bill Major, executive director of the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation. “But we can’t stop there. We must also work to provide access and resources so that residents of this community can pursue their goals and dreams in a stable and thriving neighborhood.
“… This model is a way forward in the fight against generational poverty. Diverse, inclusive neighborhoods are a clear path toward a better Tulsa.”