The HUD Secretary's Opportunity & Empowerment Award honors excellence in community planning that has led to measurable benefits in terms of increased economic development, employment, education, or housing choice and mobility for low- and moderate-income residents. The award stresses tangible results and recognizes the planning discipline as an important community resource. It emphasizes how creative housing, economic development, and private investments are used in, or in tandem with, a comprehensive community development plan.
Westlawn Gardens in Milwaukee is the largest public housing community in Wisconsin and the 2018 recipient of the HUD Secretary’s Opportunity and Empowerment Award. The Award will be presented in April at the American Planning Association’s National Planning Awards luncheon, to take place during the 2018 National Planning Conference held this year in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The original Westlawn neighborhood was built over half a century ago and consisted of barracks-style housing socially and physically isolated on superblocks. The redeveloped Westlawn Gardens, by contrast, contains a variety of building styles and grew from a holistic, community-based approach to housing development. Westlawn Gardens incorporates neighborhood retail and community services, a renovated elementary school, playground, and a community center. A community garden augments the commitment to sustainability in this LEED-certified project. The first phase of renovation has added 250 affordable units, and future phases will add market-rate ownership and rental housing to create a vibrant mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood.
In addition to transforming an aging neighborhood, the process of creating Westlawn Gardens helped lay the foundation for long-term strength in the community. The community was actively engaged in the inclusive, participatory design process, and public-private partnerships were cultivated to ensure broad and sustained commitment to the success of Westlawn Gardens.