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American Planning Association - Opportunity and Empowerment

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.

American Planning Association - Opportunity and Empowerment


Baton Rouge Mid City Redevelopment Alliance

Ten years ago the mid city region of Baton Rouge, Louisiana faced serious economic and residential decline. Realizing something had to change in order to revitalize the area, community leaders founded Mid City Redevelopment Alliance (MCRA), the city's first privately funded local initiative dedicated to resident empowerment. MCRA fostered partnerships, provided leadership, rallied residents, and coordinated the widespread effort and extensive funding required to revitalize the region.

"MCRA led the initiative, the residents participated in the redevelopment effort and the entire mid-city region now benefits from this revitalization," says Bruce Knight, AICP, chair of APA's Awards Jury. In this case, Mid-City residents have shown themselves to be worthy of nationwide recognition as they have beautified their communities, spurred investment in the city, and strengthened their neighborhoods beyond expectations.

MCRA programs include citywide cleanup and trash removal, community repair of homes, training, below-cost home improvement materials for residents, and grants to residents to finance these programs and other do-it-yourself efforts. MCRA's successes are extensive: renovation of 165 homes in the 67 block target area, 1800 graduates of first-time homebuyers training, with 46 percent of these graduates buying homes, and $75 million of infill reinvestment projects. Moreover, mid city is no longer a neighborhood of last resort in Baton Rouge, but a community offering an affordable urban lifestyle with many amenities-short commutes, mature landscaping, walkable distances, ethnic diversity, and a strong community history.