Journal of Housing & Community Development
Featured Story

Community Revitalization, One Step at a Time

June 12, 2020

National CORE wins a 2019 Award of Excellence in Community Revitalization for redeveloping the Arrowhead Grove neighborhood. Nominated from among the NAHRO Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in October. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development.   

As recently as 1976, San Bernardino started to fall into a state of steady decline following the closure of a local Air Force base, the loss of several major employers and years of political dysfunction that led to the city filing for bankruptcy. By 2016, poverty rates were nearly three times the national average, fewer than 12 percent of adults had received a college degree and per capita income was less than half of the  U.S. average. No new multifamily housing development had been approved in more than a decade, while absentee owners allowed much of the existing housing stock to fall into severe disrepair – transforming once thriving middle-class neighborhoods into centers of poverty and crime. 

National CORE is a national nonprofit located in Southern California who manages nearly 9,000 units of affordable and senior housing across four states. To promote the economic recovery and transformation beyond the boundaries of its Arrowhead Grove Neighborhood Revitalization, National CORE and the City of San Bernardino developed the Waterman + Baseline Neighborhood Specific Plan, a comprehensive and multifaceted strategy for revitalizing approximately 870 acres in Central San Bernardino. 

To ensure input from all stakeholders, National CORE held more than 100 community events between 2010 and 2016, then incorporated their aspirations for the neighborhood into the plan. These included:  

  • Improving neighborhood safety; 
  • Providing viable housing choices; 
  • Promoting neighborhood investment; 
  • Ensuring economic prosperity; and 
  • Planning for a healthy and walkable community. 

The plan established a long-term vision for the area, accommodating the addition of 1.2 million square feet of new employment and commercial space and 2,400 new housing units. The plan used the collective impact model and a holistic approach to neighborhood transformation that promoted placemaking, improved public health, balanced housing and jobs through the establishment of a “complete community” that provides a variety of housing, a neighborhood-serving K-12 school, a park and recreation network, community shopping opportunities, quality jobs, and infrastructure.

National CORE owns and manages Olive Meadow, a 62-unit affordable housing community that benefits low-income families and fills an urgent need for affordable housing in the region. All 62 units at Olive Meadow have HUD Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) vouchers. National CORE was able to leverage the vouchers with additional funding from the Housing Authority of the County of San Bernardino and HUD to receive full market rent.

The partnership at Arrowhead Grove has led to housing being the platform for individual and community transformation with National CORE implementing programs and services at Olive Meadow that improve the financial and social well-being of families through financial education, workforce development and one-on-one financial coaching. The development is the first onsite phase in the revitalization of the larger Arrowhead Grove neighborhood (formerly known as Waterman Gardens). National CORE built the community in phases, so residents were not displaced during construction. 

The redevelopment of Olive Meadow includes the construction of high-quality apartment homes, the revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood and the alignment of community partnerships that promote educational opportunity and improved health. Olive Meadow implements a robust resident services plan to create opportunities and resources for residents. They designed the community to face a courtyard to encourage a sense of community. A community garden, outdoor play area, picnic tables and outdoor exercise equipment were added to promote community interaction. Residents who did not meet affordability qualifications were provided with home loan qualification or relocation assistance. National CORE’s social services arm, Hope through Housing, and its partners provide supportive services to the residents, including resume assistance, after-school care and nutrition programs to provide residents with tools and programs to improve their lives.  

The development of Olive Meadow and the larger Arrowhead Grove neighborhood revitalization involved coordination and cooperation with multiple public agency partners and numerous stakeholder groups. Ideas and comments from elected and appointed officials, residents, local business operators, and property owners were collected early-on and incorporated into the planning through a multi-layered community outreach and engagement program. Arrowhead Grove is family–centric and will support the lively retail, restaurants and entertainment planned in Downtown. 

To bring Olive Meadow to fruition, the National CORE and their partners first worked to build a stronger support base, leveraging resources to extend the project’s reach beyond the Waterman Garden’s neighborhood. Additional partners, such as Dignity Health Systems, brought in funding to complete the latter phases of the project. Dignity Health Systems will provide a $1.2 million bridge loan to help advance the development in future phases. The loan is part of Dignity Health’s Community Investment Program, which is designed to address social determinants of health, such as housing, in underserved populations. In addition, the State’s Strategic Growth Council (SGC) awarded San Bernardino $20 million through the California Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program. The $20 million will help fund two upcoming phases of Arrowhead Grove at North Waterman Avenue and East Baseline Street. 

National CORE’s public-private partnerships were key in providing impactful resources to help revitalize their community. Their efforts created a new sense of community in the Arrowhead Grove neighborhood and added vital affordable housing units to the San Bernardino housing stock.

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