In 2018, Near West Side Partners and Marquette University were awarded a three-year $1.3 million planning grant to create a locally-driven, comprehensive neighborhood revitalization plan for the Near West Side. This grant, called the Choice Neighborhood Initiative (CNI), aims to address three core goals: Housing, People, and Neighborhoods.


The “Housing” goal looks at ways to replace distressed public and assisted housing with high-quality, mixed-income housing that is well-managed and responsive to the needs of the surrounding neighborhood. Since 2018, the CNI team has been working with the City of Milwaukee’s “College Court,” a 251 unit housing complex for seniors and adults with disabilities, to create an inclusive community of opportunity where people want to live, work, and play.

Pictured above: College Court, located on 34th and Highland Blvd. Photo courtesy of NWSP website.


The “People” goal looks to support positive outcomes for individuals living in the Near West Side, particularly outcomes related to the residents’ health, safety, employment, education, fitness, and fresh food access.

Pictured above: Resident Leadership Academy from March, 2019. Photo courtesy of NWSP website.


The “Neighborhoods” goal looks to use and build upon existing partnerships to transform the neighborhood into a vibrant mixed-income, mixed-use community with amenities and assets that attract individuals and families. Attention is especially given to the Near West Side’s commercial corridors and neighborhood safety.

Photo courtesy of NWSP website.

NWSP’s CNI grant is coordinated by Britney Roberson. Britney shared with me that thus far, CNI has achieved over a dozen accomplishments that serve the Near West Side and College Court Residents. Some examples include:

  • Hosting three Resident Stakeholder Leadership Academies
  • Organizing a “Bulb Blitz,” where tulips were offered to residents to plant in parts of the neighborhood in need of beautification
  • Putting on a play at College Court about domestic violence and health relationships
  • Starting a COVID-19 donation drive for residents at College Court
  • Hosting CNI webinars to keep people updated on grant development during COVID-19

Right now, the Choice Neighborhood Initiative team is working to finalize the Transformation Plan and Action Activities for submission to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by September. After that, the team will be focusing on the application process for a CNI implementation grant.

Another aspect of the Choice Neighborhood Initiative is the CNI Resident Council, consisting of seven Near West Side residents. Britney explained the CNI Resident Council gives community members the opportunity to talk about things dealing with the CNI grant, include their opinions, and be represented in the project.

Duane Henderson-Stokes is a NWSP Ambassador and Near West Side resident who has been serving on the CNI Resident Council since the inception of the Council in August 2019. He shared that although he has lived in the Near West Side since the age of five, being on the CNI Resident Council has taught him a lot of things about his neighborhood he did not know previously.

Pictured above: Britney Roberson presenting to the CNI Resident Council

If you are interested in getting involved with the Choice Neighborhood Initiative or being a part of the CNI Resident Council, there are a few ways you can do so. To get in contact with Britney Roberson directly, you can email her at You can also tune into the NWSP weekly webinar series that take place over Facebook Live every Wednesday at 12:00 p.m. NWSP’s Facebook can be accessed here.

To learn more about the CNI grant as a whole, be sure to check out the website here!


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