Pasco County has won a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop a master plan for the impoverished Lacoochee neighborhood.
The Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant is one of many steps county leaders are taking to try to improve the quality of life in rural northeast Pasco. The plan will encompass ways to improve the neighborhood's public and private housing, schools, job opportunities, shopping, transportation and health care.
HUD awarded planning grants to 17 of the 72 applicants this year.
David Lambert, chairman of the Pasco County Housing Authority, said completing the master plan will put the county in a good position to be able to compete for a $10 million Choice Neighborhoods grant in a few years.
"We definitely are pleased to find out that we got the planning grant," he said.
The Choice Neighborhoods program is the successor of HUD's Hope VI program, which poured millions of dollars into housing agencies to replace crumbling housing projects. Last year six cities - Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle – received grants worth about $122 million.
Lacoochee-Trilby residents won't have to wait to see some improvements to the blighted area. Pasco County is spending $3.5 million from HUD that was left over from the Tommytown project to pave dozens of roads in the community.
This year's state budget includes $1 million to help pay for a new community center that will serve as home for the Lacoochee Boys & Girls Club. That project should be ready to go out to bid if county commissioners approve the agreement with the Lacoochee Area Redevelopment Corp. on Oct. 23.