HOPE VI is a major HUD plan meant to revitalize the public housing projects into mixed-income developments. Its philosophy is largely based on New Urbanism, meaning that communities must be dense, pedestrian-friendly, and transit-accessible.
In 2006, working with a $20 million HOPE VI provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Allentown Housing Authority undertook the reconstruction of two of Americaâ€™s oldest public housing projects â€“ Hanover Acres and Riverview Terrace. AHA contracted with Pennrose Properties of Philadelphia on the replacement of these two declining public housing projects with redeveloped, mixed-income affordable housing strengthened the neighborhood business district, reduced crime and stabilized home values in the surrounding community.
By offering the option of home ownership, the project created investment in the neighborhood, further strengthening the neighborhood and allowing persons of moderate income to become first-time home owners and build equity. The development was designed to reinforce the positive attributes of the surrounding neighborhood through the scale of the streets and buildings and the use of traditional neighborhood design principles. The design also achieves overall goals of reducing nearby traffic congestion, improving storm water management and offering pedestrian access to public transportation.
Most importantly, Overlook Park provides affordable rental housing for persons earning between 20 and 80 percent of the areaâ€™s median income and purchase options for those earning between 60 and 120 percent of the local median income. Twenty rental homes are reserved for those receiving treatment for mental health or mental retardation issues while they transition to independent living.
The modern home designs embody the concept of traditional neighborhood life with buildings close to the street and the inclusion of front porches and sidewalks that encourage residents to interact while providing a safety measure of eyes on the street at all times. This project also re-used a portion of the venerable Lehigh and New England Railroad Depot as a new community building for Overlook Park residents, tying the new community together with the existing neighborhood.
The location and design of Overlook Park also take into consideration the wonderful view of the Lehigh River and create a park-like setting that enhances the sense of community while knitting the neighborhood into the fabric of Pennsylvaniaâ€™s third-largest city.