Plans For The Set Bolster Education, Job Creation, Affordable Housing

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By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor

It has a name and now it has a plan in the works. The Set Transformation Plan is set to be the guiding document that city officials will turn to when developing the city’s gateway to downtown.

The Set, which encompasses West Atlantic Avenue and the Northwest and Southwest Communities, is working to create an outline that documents improvements to the neighborhood that residents say they want.

“The health of this part of the city reflects on the rest of the city,” said Vivian Brooks of the IBI Group, who was hired by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency to help create the plan. “This is a large part of the city.”

The plan combines and builds upon previous neighborhood plans for the area like the 1995 West Atlantic Avenue Redevelopment Plan, the 2003 Downtown Master Plan, the 2003 SW Neighborhood plan and the 2012 WARC Needs Assessment.

Broad, long-term visioning ideas for the area include creating business opportunities for minorities, adding adult education and vocational training and finding more affordable housing options. Shorter-term goals identified include completing sidewalk networks, improving alleyways, adding more community garden and crafting branding opportunities throughout the district.

“This is a long-term plan for the community,” Brooks told city commissioners during a recent presentation. “It’s not one year, or three years, it’s 10 and 20 years,” she said.

Commissioners said the plan addresses a lot of tough topics like disparity in education levels and wages as well as ideas that are easier to tackle like suggestions for code changes and land use recommendations to help facilitate new, desired development.

“The plan to me has the requisite ingredients for something both so daunting, but yet so strategically important,” Mayor Cary Glickstein said. “It has some aspirational pieces, but some very tactful, strategic, specific initiatives. In broad terms, it’s a good plan.”

CRA Executive Director Jeff Costello said the plan will involve many government agencies, nonprofits and the private sector.

“The city can’t do it alone, the CRA can’t do it alone, the school district can’t do it alone,” he said. “The key is to move forward.”

Many projects in the area are currently underway or in the works. For example the Village Academy campus will receive money from the penny sales tax initiative. The plan discusses ideas that can possibly be considered for the site including a wellness facility and athletic fields.

Commissioner Shirley Johnson called the overall plan ambitious.

“If it is the community’s vision, I can understand it,” she said. “We seem to have hit a roadblock once we are trying to reach I-95, which is going to complete our downtown.”

For decades, residents of The Set have waited to see the renaissance that transpired east of Swinton Avenue hit west of Swinton Avenue.

“The progress of east Swinton has outpaced the progress of West Swinton,” Glickstein said. “I am amazed at the patience that this community has demonstrated. I can tell you from my point of view, I wouldn’t be able to show the same restraint that has been demonstrated from the residents of the NW/SW communities. That patience and restraint and the factual inequities that exist should be the impetus for this next commission to make this their legacy.”

The plan will need to be formally adopted by the CRA and city.

“The Set Transformational Plan is out of the batters box and heading to first base,” Glickstein said. “We are all looking for when it is heading to home.”