“Diversity and the related concepts of equity and inclusion rest on the fundamental proposition that our shared humanity matters more than that which might otherwise separate and divide us.” Hannibal Johnson, Author, Attorney, Consultant & Professor, excerpt from Oklahoma Humanities Magazine
The significance of the fact that we submitted an application for a Choice Neighborhoods Implementation (CNI) grant from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) for our Envision Comanche project this month – Black History Month – isn’t lost on us.
North Tulsa has been underserved for decades. According to Human Rights Watch data:
- Half of all Black people in Tulsa live in North Tulsa
- The poverty rate in North Tulsa is more than 20% higher than in South Tulsa (33.5% versus 13.4%)
- Across Tulsa, 33.5% of Black Tulsans are below the poverty line compared to 13% of white Tulsans
- The rate of unemployment among Black Tulsans is 2.37 times higher than white Tulsans
As the primary provider of affordable housing in our city, we have an obligation to contribute to greater equity and improved quality of life for residents of North Tulsa.
One of the most effective ways to deconcentrate poverty is through the development of mixed-income communities, where residents receiving a housing subsidy live next door to traditional market-rate renters. Fostering inclusion and greater interaction between Tulsans that wouldn’t typically be neighbors, mixed-income communities represent a clear path to creating a better Tulsa by transforming lives and communities.
Initiated in October 2018, the Envision Comanche planning process has resulted in a proposed $190 million multi-year investment, transforming this area into a mixed-use, mixed-income community. Over the course of a year, residents, stakeholders, community partners and civic and nonprofit organizations came together through more than 30 planning meetings, four design charettes, four community engagement events and multiple survey opportunities to establish a new vision for Comanche Park and the surrounding area.
Included in the planning process was the creation of Community Engagement Assistants, current residents of Comanche Park that supported data collection and other community contributions to the project.
Once the planning process concluded, the process of securing funding for the project commenced. We opted to apply for our second CNI grant, concurrent with our work at River West. The grant offers up to $50 million toward selected projects following a competitive selection by HUD. In addition to potential CNI funds, we are incredibly grateful to have funding commitments from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation and the St. John Ascension Foundation, as well as support and in-kind commitments from over 45 local agencies.
Our efforts to redevelopment Comanche Park are anchored by a comprehensive implementation team that includes the City of Tulsa as co-Applicant and Neighborhood Lead, Urban Strategies, Inc. as People Lead, Tulsa Public Schools as Education Lead, and Pennrose, LLC as the competitively procured Housing Lead and co-developer.
While we await the next steps in the CNI grant process, we want to take a moment to celebrate the incredible work of our team from the onset of this project to the submission of an incredibly competitive application that should make our city proud. We also want to take time to honor what Black History Month means to each of us, and what our role in contributing to equality for all Tulsans can mean for future generations.