Promise Zones Second Round Urban Designees

On April 28, 2015, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro announced the second round of designated urban promise zones. They are located in: Sacramento, CA; Hartford, CT; Indianapolis, IN; Minneapolis, MN; St. Louis, MO; Camden, NJ.

To celebrate the newly designated zones, events were held across the country in each of the new urban zones. Secretary Julián Castro, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development visited St. Louis, Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education visited Minneapolis, CEO, Wendy Spencer, Corporation for National and Community Service visited Indianapolis, Deputy Secretary, Nani Coloretti, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, visited Hartford and HUD Regional Administrators held events in Camden, NJ and Sacramento, CA.

Through the Promise Zone designation, these communities will work directly with federal, state and local agencies to give local leaders proven tools to improve the quality of life in some of the country’s most vulnerable areas.

View Promise Zones Second Round Rural and Tribal Designees.

View Promise Zones Designees, Finalists, and Applicants.

Camden Promise Zone

2015 In Review

"The promise of a new Camden has come to fruition—one that residents are proud to call home, one where people look forward to going to work, and one where visitors are excited to spend time . Camden’s time has arrived.

As Mayor of t his great city, it is an honor to serve my residents and to be at the helm of this wonderful transformation. So, when given the opportunity to apply for a Promise Zone designation, my administration did not hesitate to submit an application. I believed a Promise Zone designation was a natural fit, and a great opportunity to further expand and create new initiatives that would build upon the positive momentum and progress already occurring in the city.

In April of 2015, Camden was awarded an Urban Promise Zone designation.  Unlike previous recipients, we have the unique distinction of our entire city being designated a Promise Zone. One month later, President Obama visited Camden to highlight the work we were doing and called Camden “a symbol of promise for the nation.”  President Obama touted Camden’s success in community policing efforts with our newly established Camden County Metro Police as well as efforts to reduce youth violence. Due to this strong partnership with the county and state, Camden is a safer place to live, work, visit and do business.

In 2010, when elected mayor, Camden was transitioning to the recovery phases of the Municipal Rehabilitation and Economic Recovery Act, legislation passed by the state of New Jersey in 2002 to spur economic development in the city. Th is legislation was amended in 2010, and Camden government transitioned from CEO back to the m ayor/c ouncil form of government. 

Over the past year, more than $6.8 million in federal investments has been awarded to the Camden Promise Zone, supporting work readiness, financial literacy, internships and other Promise Zone priorities.

Without a doubt, Camden’s progress is the culmination of comprehensive initiatives and dynamic collaborations with a number of public and private partnerships.

Although we have much left to accomplish, we are putting the necessary tools in place to once again turn Camden into the City Invincible. As we look to the future of Camden, we are committed to achieving the goals of the Promise Zone that are centered on collaboration and community growth. Camden is on the rise.

To see all the exciting changes taking place in Camden, watch the Camden Rising video."

-Mayor Dana Redd

Promise Zone Progress

Promise Zone partners have created five goals to revitalize Camden:

  • Increase economic activity
  • Reduce violent crime
  • Improve educational outcomes
  • Improve health and wellness
  • Increase affordable and safe housing

To increase affordable and safe housing, residents are receiving tools to access safe, affordable housing through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s certified financial literacy classes and first-time homebuyer programs. In addition to this goal, other Promise Zone priorities are being fulfilled as well.

Reducing Serious and Violent Crime

The city of Camden was fortunate to have a head start in achieving one of its goals – Reduce Serious and Violent Crime. Meeting this challenge began in 2013 during the transition from the Camden City Police Department to the current Camden County Police Department–Metro Division.

The Camden County Police Department has taken a holistic approach to reducing crime from increasing the number of officers to the use of new technology to act as a force multiplier as a means of changing the policing paradigm. Innovative ways have been found to bolster community policing efforts, resulting in a positive response from residents. Bike and foot patrols are core components and the heart of the deployment of officers.

The Metro Division has received more than $9 million in federal investments to further its community policing model. The city, in partnership with Camden County Metro, Camden County Prosecutor’s Office and five surrounding municipalities, is annually awarded the Justice Assistance Grant for prevention and education initiatives.

Technology upgrades are advancing public safety. The city’s Eye in the Sky CCTV Camera Program have provided 120 cameras since 2013, which will increase to 240 by the end of 2016. Also, with the acquisition of the Interactive Communication Action Network system, residents are being empowered to communicate with the police department; using an anonymous user profile, it grants limited access to the “eye in the sky” cameras for residents to report suspicious activities in their neighborhoods.

Thanks to the progress in public safety, business owners and developers now identify Camden as a safer and financially stable investment. New industries are enhancing Camden’s economy, laying the groundwork for the creation of career training and real job opportunities for residents.

Increasing Economic Activity

The mayor’s office, in conjunction with Promise Zone partners, has aggressively coordinated efforts with existing and new businesses in the city to ensure residents have opportunities for employment in Camden through workforce development programs. U.S. Small Business Administration workshops are providing Camden-based businesses with information for potential vending and contracting opportunities within the city.

The Disney model has been adopted for work readiness training, which teaches residents customer service skills, resume writing, budgeting and financial literacy, and other important employment skills. The city’s Economic Opportunity Act partners—Holtec International, Philadelphia 76ers and Contemporary Graphic Solutions—are supporting this effort through training and employment for Camden residents.

Through a $1.9 million U.S. Department of Labor grant for workforce development and education, youth and adults are receiving job training for employment with new companies relocating or expanding in Camden. The city’s goal is to have at least 113 youth receive their GED or equivalent .

Improving Educational Outcomes

Through funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, two new violence prevention programs were implemented—Youth Leadership Academy and Youth Forum Restorative Justice Program.

Camden’s Youth Leadership Academy, a twelve-month program, is an outstanding opportunity for young men and women to experience a variety of cultural, academic and social activities. The Youth Forum Restorative Justice Program teaches young people that their actions have consequences, providing opportunities for them to engage and communicate with judges, lawyers and the court system in a positive way.

Camden was selected to participate in ConnectHome in July 2015, an initiative to extend affordable broadband access to families living in HUD-assisted housing. Camden Housing Authority residents will receive access to digital literacy classes, have expanded community center computer rooms and receive new computers donated from local internet providers. The mayor’s office is working to obtain donations of tablet computers from local philanthropic organizations for youth residing in housing authority developments. The goal is to secure 200 tablets by December 2016.

Major and exciting improvements are being made in early childhood education. Through Center for Family Services, a nonprofit human service agency dedicated to improving the lives of children and families in southern New Jersey, Camden has instituted family literacy workshops, family book clubs, and programs for parents to read with their kids . The Born to Read Initiative for three- and four-year-olds has increased by 90 participants since 2015, ensuring kindergarten readiness for Camden youth.

In addition, the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program has expanded from three elementary schools to six in the school district, and all public preschools now have the Second Step curriculum.

This curriculum helps schools teach and model essential communication, coping, and decision-making skills that help adolescents navigate around common pitfalls such as peer pressure, substance abuse, and bullying (both in-person and online).

View Camden Fact Sheet.

View Camden Promise Zone Website.

View Camden Promise Plan.

IndyEast Promise Zone

IndyEast Promise Zone

IndyEast Promise Zone logo

For the past 10 years, IndyEast residents, major local institutions and community partners have worked together to create a new story for the Near Eastside of Indianapolis – a neighborhood where residents choose to live, work and play. Once hailed as Indy’s first suburb, the Near Eastside was a thriving community of neighborhoods. The neighborhood saw a decline in the 50s & 60s when Interstate 65 was built in the early 70s and the near Eastside was separated from downtown. Cut off from the heart of the city, the near Eastside continued to decline. In 2004, residents created the Near Eastside Collaborative Taskforce to address critical quality-of-life issues. Composed of more than 400 residents, the taskforce was the driving impetus to apply for the Great Indy Neighborhoods Initiative (GINI), a pilot program led by Local Initiatives Support Corporation that introduced Quality of Life planning to the city.

In 2007, the Near Eastside was one of six neighborhoods selected to participate in GINI. Through the work with GINI, neighbors created an ambitious, resident-led, quality of life (QOL) plan which would eventually leverage $154 million in public, private, and philanthropic funding. This plan captures the energy that neighbors have for making our neighborhood a better place to live, work and play. It is a living guide intended to inform the strategic decisions of neighborhood leaders when prioritizing funding and projects. As neighbors and partners began to implement specific objectives outlined in the QOL plan, the City of Indianapolis was assembling the bid to host the 2012 Super Bowl. In an unprecedented decision, the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee selected the Near Eastside and the QOL plan as the 2012 Super Bowl Legacy Project. This decision, and the subsequent selection by the National Football League of Indianapolis as the Super Bowl host city, amplified and accelerated the efforts of the Near Eastside to achieve the goals identified in the QOL plan. Although unknown at the time, the work done by the Near Eastside Collaborative Task Force, the QOL plan completed through GINI, and the work completed as part of the 2012 Super Bowl Legacy Project laid the foundation for the neighborhood’s successful application as a Promise Zone. The near Eastside neighbors are enormously proud that we are the only Promise Zone led by a community center, the John Boner Neighborhood Centers. As evidenced above, the near Eastside has a long history of resident-led change, and the Promise Zone designation continues that history.

With a Promise Zone designation, the near Eastside and the City of Indianapolis are organized, ready, and able to fulfill its promise to become a vibrant and thriving community.

Progress Toward Promise Zone Goals

As the Chief Executive Officer of the John Boner Neighborhood Centers, it is my pleasure to highlight specific efforts that have emerged from our first year utilizing the Promise Zone designation. Much of the first year of the Promise Zone designation has focused on capacity building of the committees, selecting VISTA members, refining the activities, outcomes and timelines, and collecting baseline data.

This groundwork positions Indianapolis to take advantage of federal partnerships to tackle the next set of challenges facing IndyEast. We are grateful to Lilly Endowment for providing a three year grant to employ three staff members dedicated to the implementation of the Promise Zone plan. Numerous federal agencies have provided direct technical assistance to IndyEast Promise Zone Implementation Partners, including the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Agriculture.

In addition, the Promise Zone designation has been used to secure 14 grants from seven different federal agencies totaling over $9.6 million. Resources currently secured will create 110 new jobs, serve hundreds of ex-offenders returning to our community, provide targeted fair housing enforcement, and enable neighbors to become certified in health care fields, among other efforts. These activities benefit not only the IndyEast Promise Zone area, but also other communities across the city.

Although the first year has focused on capacity building, it has also been replete with opportunities.  I am most proud of the work that neighbors have done to achieve the Learn IndyEast Promise Zone goals, ensuring that all children will receive exceptional education from birth to adulthood. In order to accomplish this goal, neighbors are working in partnership with Indianapolis Public Schools to convert a local elementary school into a neighborhood managed Innovation School. This process allows neighborhood residents to give voice in the design, management and operations of their own school and allows the community to align other neighborhood assets and programs towards the educational success of our children.

An additional focus of the first year has been working closely with the City of Indianapolis and Mayor Joe Hogsett to build opportunity for young people. The IndyEast Promise Zone is playing an instrumental role in helping the city leverage federal programs and resources to support the summer jobs program. One example of this is the Summer Jobs and Beyond grant opportunity provided by the United States Department of Labor. The Promise Zone designation helped EmployIndy, the local workforce investment board, secure a $2 million Summer Jobs and Beyond grant from the Department of Labor to create career pathways for young people.   

Looking Forward

The second year of our Promise Zone designation will continue this momentum. In the fall of 2016, Oxford Place Senior Apartments will open. This unique housing development will be the first net-positive energy apartment building in the state of Indiana. Oxford Place Senior Apartments will help meet a critical need by providing low-income seniors with affordable housing as well as a wide range of services designed to help them age in place.

The Rivoli Theater, a historic landmark in the heart of the Promise Zone, is targeted for redevelopment. An investment from the City of Indianapolis, along with a matching investment from private philanthropic funds will stabilize the roof and building structure, allowing the IndyEast Promise Zone team time to develop an Arts-Based Community Development strategy. The redevelopment of this key neighborhood landmark will provide renewed energy in this neighborhood and spur further housing and commercial development investments.

Working with both federal partners and the City of Indianapolis, the IndyEast Promise Zone team will also target business and economic development along city-identified focus corridors and abandoned industrial sites. Turning these into zones of commerce and job creating opportunities that support emerging economic sectors is key to achieving Promise Zone goals. The IndyEast Promise Zone designation was used to secure a $400,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to support clean-up and reuse of properties in these areas. The IndyEast Promise Zone team will continue to seek technical expertise and financial assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Economic Development Administration to further support these goals.

With a Promise Zone designation, the near Eastside and the City of Indianapolis are organized, ready, and able to fulfill its promise to become a vibrant and thriving community.

James Taylor
John Boner Neighborhood Centers

View IndyEast Fact Sheet.

View IndyEast Promise Zone website.

View IndyEast Promise Plan.

Minneapolis Promise Zone

Minneapolis Promise Zone

West Broadway business owners, artists, and iconic textures make up this photographic mural commissioned by the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition. Courtesy of Jake Armour of Armour Photography.

Building One Minneapolis

2015 in Review

"It is true that Minneapolis is an amazing and wonderful city, where we come together for the common good. It is also true that Minneapolis is a city of great challenges, especially regarding race, that divide us from one another. Our ability to come together, even while holding both these truths in tension, is our greatest strength. The Minneapolis Promise Zone is one of the shining examples of our coming together to build One Minneapolis.

The Promise Zone is a group of nine neighborhoods in North Minneapolis whose residents are 80 percent people of color, many of whom are affected by rates of poverty, crime, housing instability, and unemployment in great disproportion to the rest of the city. The Promise Zone is also a resilient, hopeful community with great assets and great aspirations.

The Minneapolis Promise Zone, in collaboration with the community of North Minneapolis, has identified six areas where we partner with the federal government to leverage support and good work already being done: reducing racial inequities; reducing serious and violent crime; improving cradle-to-career outcomes; building a more inclusive economy; creating jobs; and promoting stable housing.

I am proud to be the mayor of a prosperous, growing city. Our growth and prosperity cannot — and frankly, will not — continue; however, if we do not make every effort to include everyone in it. The Minneapolis Promise Zone is about coming together to make sure that we leave no genius on the table."

-Mayor Betsy Hodges

North Minneapolis Promise Zone At A Glance

  • Population:  38,559
  • Poverty rate: 40.33%
  • Unemployment rate: 22.3%
  • Violence: 50% of the city’s gun violence occurs in the Promise Zone
  • Education: 25% of the population aged 25 or older does not possess a high school degree or GED 


As daunting as these statistics are, the community of the Minneapolis Promise Zone is resilient and determined. With nationally recognized efforts on the part of the City to address racial equity and the great work of our partners, the Minneapolis Promise Zone is working to expand opportunity and create a more inclusive economy.

Ongoing efforts and partnerships are focused on increasing economic activity, facilitating entrepreneurship and advancing business development.  Those involved in the work are as follows:

  • Appetite for Change
  • Northside Achievement Zone
  • Minneapolis Hot Spot Community Collaborative
  • LISC’s Building Sustainable Communities initiative
  • Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON)
  • Northside Funders Group
  • University of Minnesota


The success of the Minneapolis Promise Zone is critical to the long term and sustainability of the economic growth for the entire city. During the application process, 170 community members came together to discuss the challenges and opportunities in front of us.  After many hours of work, it was decided that the Promise Zone would focus on six primary goals:

  • Increase racial equity
  • Increase community health and safety
  • Expand educational opportunity
  • Build a more inclusive economy
  • Create jobs

To work on each of those goals, last year, the Mayor and City Council approved a budget, including funding for two full-time staff whose work is to prioritize activities that advances priorities in the reduction of racial disparities.  The main focus for one of the equity and inclusion managers hired last September is to work closely with Promise Zone community partners to identify and create lasting solutions that advance each of the goals established by the community.

Firm steps have been taken in the first year since the designation was awarded.   Over the past year, more than $4.3 million in federal investments has been awarded to the Minneapolis area to make housing units lead-safe, increase food access, help women entrepreneurs start and grow businesses, and develop and implement counseling services to students at risk for dropout.

Ten full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members will be hired to work in a satellite office, based in the Promise Zone, supporting the community and partners in implementing strategies related to the six primary goals.

Increasing Racial Equity

The Promise Zone’s first goal serves as a filter through which the rest of the work is funneled.  To address the systemic disparities, public institutions’ services must address the diverse needs of the population. The Equity Management Team will focus on initiatives that move the dial on equity within the City as a workplace, working closely with enterprise leadership on a variety of initiatives, including supporting work that is underway.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Appetite for Change (a community-led organization) a $374,000 Community Food Program grant to help continue and expand programs that are changing the way food is produced, marketed, distributed and consumed in North Minneapolis. Through this program, the impact has been significant—2, 135 meals provided; 1,236 community members served; 53 community-owned food business start-ups; 24 youth employed and trained and 15 jobs created.

Increasing Community Health and Safety

The Promise Zone suffers from one of the highest rates of violent crime.  Ongoing efforts are addressing the systemic health and safety issues that overwhelmingly and disproportionately affect North Minneapolis.

Youth violence in particular is a public health epidemic that requires a holistic, multi-faceted response. The Blueprint for Action: Preventing Youth Violence in Minneapolis was created, drawing on a mix of increased law enforcement and public health strategies to significantly reduce and prevent youth violence.

For the past 18 months, city officials and community partners have worked closely with the National League of Cities on a technical assistance grant for Juvenile Justice Reform. As a result of this work, there has been a decrease in racial disparities and disproportionality at decision points in the process of increasing numbers of youth eligible for diversion.

In partnership with Hennepin County Medical Center, the City will launch a hospital-based intervention pilot for victims of gunshots, providing twelve months of training and funding to grassroots community-based programs that serve young people in crime-ridden areas. The training will give participants hands-on technical assistance to develop their capacity and help them bring their work to the next level.

Law enforcement is receiving extensive training to improve interpersonal communication with residents. In 2015, police officers received fair and impartial policing training. Future trainings will focus on procedural justice and crisis intervention.

Lastly, the Minneapolis Police Department is gearing up for the implementation of a body camera program with the goals of enhancing transparency and accountability, and ultimately, reduce the use of force and complaints of excessive force.

Expanding Educational Opportunity

The Cradle to K work is crucial in making sure that all children in the Promise Zone and the rest of the city get the best possible start in life. Cradle to K has an intentional focus on prenatal to age three since 80 percent of brain development occurs in those early years.

This year, big steps have been taken to advance the three primary goals, which focus on ensuring that very young children (aged 0 to 3) get a healthy start—rich with early experiences that prepare them for successful early education and literacy. In collaboration with Minneapolis public schools, the number of three year olds receiving early childhood education rose 18 percent over the previous school year (2014-2015).

Work has been completed, alongside early childhood advocates and organizations, to ensure parents in the Promise Zone have access to scholarships that make high quality childcare affordable and accessible in their community.

Increasing Access to Safe, Affordable, Stable Housing

The City has invested $5.5 million in housing programs, including the Green Homes North, which is focused on building green homes and offering down payment assistance exclusively in North Minneapolis.

To ensure stable housing, the Mayor and City Council added $1 million to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund for large affordable units for extremely low-income families experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.

For renters, Minneapolis Regulatory Services implemented a three-tier system for rental licensing fees. The goal of the new system is to recognize landlords who take care of their properties by charging them smaller fees for rental licenses. Minneapolis 311 has begun doing more outreach to increase awareness of the service in communities of color and immigrant communities, with the hope that more people, particularly renters of color will utilize 311 as a tool to improve livability in their neighborhoods. These changes are a result of partnership with the Minneapolis Bloomberg Innovation Team.

Building a More Inclusive Economy and Creating Jobs

Making sure the workforce of tomorrow is diverse and well prepared is a key priority for the administration of Mayor Betsy Hodges.  Last year, the Mayor’s approved budget included $350,000 to expand opportunities for low-income residents to participate in the Obama administration’s TechHire initiative. 

This city-wide effort provides employment opportunities and career readiness for low-income residents, including those in the Promise Zone. Two hundred graduates—32 percent women and 24 percent people of color—have completed the training.

The Promise Zone is enjoying a new level of interest in real estate investment.  A number of projects have been recently completed or are currently underway, totaling approximately 200 new housing units and 19,000 square feet of commercial space.

View Minneapolis Fact Sheet.

View Minneapolis Promise Zone website.

View Minneapolis Promise Plan.

North Hartford Promise Zone

North Hartford Promise Zone

North Hartford Promise Zone: A Year in Review

Hartford is a city with tremendous assets and enormous potential. Among our greatest strengths are our diversity, cultural assets, beautiful parks, and rich history.  Hartford’s challenges, however, are many.  Hartford is facing a fiscal crisis, with a budget deficit of $48.5 million in 2017 and large deficits projected in the years ahead, and the State of Connecticut is grappling with its own massive budget deficits.

Despite the fiscal crisis, we remain committed to achieving our goals in the Promise Zone, and we have begun the work of putting our priorities into action. Mayor Luke Bronin took office this past January with a vision for building a better future for Hartford – one in which all of Hartford’s residents share in Hartford’s rise.

April 28, 2016, marked one year since Hartford was awarded New England’s first Promise Zone designation for North Hartford, an area encompassing three Hartford neighborhoods and home to approximately one fifth of Hartford’s residents.

Once a mixed-income community anchored by a strong manufacturing industry, the North Hartford Promise Zone (NHPZ) experienced a sharp socioeconomic decline after the post-World War II construction of major highway Interstate 84 left the NHPZ isolated from the economic activity of Hartford’s downtown. Even more devastating were the race riots of 1968, when the majority of North Hartford’s commercial strip was destroyed.

Though faced with severe hardship today, including an unemployment rate higher than that of the Great Depression, the residents of the NHPZ exemplify the resilience, the perseverance, and the greatness of our city. 

The top strategic priorities of Mayor Bronin’s administration are to promote economic development and job growth, to keep our streets safe and our neighborhoods strong, and to engage our youth.  In the Promise Zone, we focused on reinvigorating the commercial corridors that are the engines of our economy; expanding access to quality, affordable housing; and addressing the barriers to employment that our youth face.

Our work is just beginning, and since receiving a Promise Zone designation, the City of Hartford has already engaged over 500 residents, connected with 50 local non-profits, and secured eight grants from five different agencies totaling over $16.8 million. These resources will provide targeted fair housing enforcement, teen pregnancy prevention and education, increased access to healthy foods, youth employment opportunities and other efforts. 

The key to laying a solid foundation for our work in the Promise Zone has been collaboration.  In a visit to the North Hartford Promise Zone, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro remarked, "Hartford deserves a lot of credit for tackling head-on what a lot of cities are dealing with…[T]here's a higher level of collaboration going on here in Hartford, and that makes me believe that there's going to be some good progress."

Progress towards Promise Zone Goals

In beginning our work, we have focused on building upon existing efforts that support our Promise Zone goals. These goals include:

  • Increased Economic Development
  • Expanded Access to Quality, Affordable Housing
  • Improved Health and Wellness
  • Job Creation

First, to advance the goal of Increased Economic Development, we are working to attract and retain businesses in the North Hartford Promise Zone’s commercial corridors. To support us in this effort, the State of Connecticut announced the allocation of $10 million to the Capital Region Development Authority to support new and existing development projects in the NHPZ. 

Second, in order to obtain Expanded Access to Quality, Affordable Housing, we supported the creation of programming to prevent foreclosure and provide low-to-moderate income residents with opportunities for affordable rental housing, homeownership, and home improvement. Notably, as a part of this effort, the CT Center for Fair Housing received $1.85 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to support the provision of direct services and education on fair housing for Hartford households.

Third, in working towards Improved Health & Wellness, we focused on the emotional and physical development of high-risk children and families.  One major highlight is a project with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which allocated $198,776 to incentivize and dramatically increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit usage at farmers markets.  The program will encourage SNAP recipients to redeem their food stamp benefits at four Hartford farmers markets, including two markets in the Promise Zone, by doubling their SNAP benefits when used at those markets.  This program will have dramatic benefits for the Promise Zone, where 53% of the 8,000 households receive SNAP.

Fourth, through our Jobs Creation efforts, we sought to increase residents’ net income, financial capabilities, long-term job retention and net worth over time. As part of that work, the Hartford Housing Authority (HHA) successfully applied for $100,000 from HUD’s Juvenile Re-Entry Assistance Program (JRAP). HHA’s program will provide legal services to Promise Zone youth ages 16-24 with juvenile or adult criminal records in order to remove barriers to education, employment, housing and other critical activities.

Mayor Bronin’s commitment to creating a Second Chance Society informed much of our Job Creation work. Among other efforts, the Mayor urged businesses to sign President Obama’s Fair Chance Business Pledge, and he advocated for Connecticut to join Hartford in creating a pathway for second chances by adopting a “ban the box” policy.

Community Partner Highlight

Hartford is incredibly fortunate to have passionate and dedicated partners who have worked tirelessly on Promise Zone implementation over the past year, including Community Solutions, a national nonprofit working within the Promise Zone to improve health and employment outcomes.

Community Solutions has organized multiple events designed to engage residents in providing input on solutions to community needs. One major initiative was their “100-day Action Lab,” targeting improving employment outcomes in the Promise Zone as a crime reduction strategy. 

In addition, Community Solutions is actively working towards securing funding to support the renovation of the former Swift Factory into a food and community hub. Recently, Community Solutions received second place in Hartford’s economic development competition that was funded by EDA’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) grant.

Finally, Community Solutions is leading the North Hartford Healthcare Pilot, which seeks to raise the quality of the life for 500 medically vulnerable Promise Zone residents by training and employing 20 Promise Zone residents as community health workers. As of today, six community health workers have been employed through the pilot.

Community Engagement

This past year’s Promise Zone activities also included numerous events aimed at bringing together the community and building engagement, disseminating information, and celebrating the rich cultural heritage of the Promise Zone.

Just weeks after the NHPZ designation, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D) hosted a town hall meeting about the Promise Zone designation.  Nearly 150 residents and business owners were in attendance, from whom Senator Murphy solicited feedback on ways to leverage the designation to create jobs, boost economic activity, expand educational opportunities, improve health and wellness, increase availability of quality and affordable housing, and reduce violent crime in the community.

Later in the fall, nearly 50 members of the NHPZ’s original planning team participated in a North Hartford Promise Zone Community Tour. In addition, a team of North Hartford-based artists, led by master artist and Connecticut muralist Tao LaBossiere as part of the Welcome Home Community Mural project, co-created a large-scale mural celebrating the meaning of home in Hartford’s North End community.

Over the winter, we held an informational meeting that addressed Promise Zone federal partner funding and technical assistance, which was attended by sixty local nonprofits.  The event was designed to provide attendees with an overview of the Promise Zone initiative, including information related to Promise Zone Preference Points.

Recently, our partners at HUD’s Hartford Field Office hosted an informational meeting for nonprofits and housing counseling agencies, detailing potential opportunities within the Promise Zone.  Presenters included the City of Hartford, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and NeighborWorks America.

Looking Towards the Future in North Hartford

We are determined not to be paralyzed by Hartford’s challenges but rather to be emboldened by them.  We will aim to build upon this past year’s efforts, which connected an empowered community to local and national institutions.

In the coming year, we will aggressively pursue external funding opportunities that will allow us to accelerate the pace of our work despite local and state budget constraints.

We will work to create a better future for the North Hartford Promise Zone and for all of Hartford.

-Mayor Luke Bronin

View North Hartford Fact Sheet.

View North Hartford Promise Zone website.

View North Hartford Promise Plan.

Sacramento Promise Zone

2015 In Review

The positive impact that the Promise Zone has had on the City of Sacramento is a sight to behold. As I reflect on the activities and accomplishments of the first year, I see the transformational effects of this coveted designation reverberating across our city.

Since I took office in 2008 my vision has been to make Sacramento “a city that works for everyone.” My top priorities include improving public safety, creating jobs and economic development, launching green and sustainability initiatives, reforming public education and enhancing the quality of life for all Sacramentans. Last year I added a goal to create 10,000 units of housing Downtown over the next 10 years. Our housing plan includes the development and perseveration of 6,000 market rate units, 2,500 affordable units and 1,500 units for rapid rehousing the homeless. All of these priorities are perfectly aligned with the goals of the Sacramento Promise Zone.

Over the past year, over $34 million in federal investments has been awarded to create jobs, provide job training and placement, increase access to healthy foods, and improve educational opportunities primarily in the Promise zone. We recognize that the Promise Zone designation has ripple effects that positively impact the entire city and as the Capitol city of California, our goal is to be a model city for the region and state.


The Sacramento Promise Zone encompasses some of the economically hardest-hit neighborhoods in the city – from Del Paso Heights in the North Area, Oak Park and The Avenues in the South County. It also includes portions of Downtown and Midtown and encompasses five City Council Districts. The Promise Zone is home to 127,893 residents, of whom 34.93% live in poverty. In the Promise Zone, 63% of children are reading below grade level and the unemployment rate is 19%. The life expectancy of the residents of the Promise Zone is 72 years versus 79 outside the zone.  

The entire City Council along with over 50 committed and capable partners are perfectly aligned in our efforts to significantly improve the lives of residents in the Promise Zone neighborhoods. We have a demonstrated history of commitments to neighborhoods in the zone based on past federal funding of projects and activities. Our city leaders are committed to aligning and directing local, federal, state, corporate and philanthropic funds into the Promise Zone neighborhoods.


Sacramento is a diverse city that has a long and successful track record of organizations working together and using its diversity as an asset. During the first year, our list of Promise Zone partners has expanded from 30 to over 50 participating agencies and organizations. These capable and committed partners are working collaboratively to coordinate and attract financial resources, build capacity and create public-private partnerships to promote healthy behaviors, accelerate job creation, increase educational opportunities, promote a sustainable economic base, and facilitate neighborhood revitalization.


Our Promise Zone goals are clear, transformational and achievable.

  • Create jobs and accelerate job training and placement
  • Increase economic activity within the downtown and neighborhood business districts
  • Improve educational opportunities from cradle to career
  • Improve health and wellness by promoting healthy behaviors and increasing health interventions
  • Facilitate sustainable neighborhood revitalization activities that support safe and thriving communities

Job Training and Placement

Over the past year we have achieved some significant milestones and accomplishments that support our Promise Zone goals. The Housing Authority of the City of Sacramento received a $2.7 million Jobs Plus grant that supports our goal of accelerating job training and placement. Over 700 residents will receive assistance to connect them to training that leads to jobs and careers that provide economic self-sufficiency. Additionally, the Sacramento Conservation Corps is expanding job training opportunities through their YouthBuild program that serves young adults. This was made possible through a $1 million grant.

Economic Activity

We have also strengthened relationships with the SBA and the Department of Economic Development to provide technical assistance to local business and access both technical and financial resources to support the 7 business districts within the Promise Zone. We are currently developing an Economic Development Plan that will assist with the creation of several Promise Zone Innovation Districts. The city is committed to creating, attracting and retaining small businesses. An $8 million Innovation Fund has been established with city funds to attract, support and leverage resources that support business creation. We celebrated the opening of the first grocery store in the Del Paso Heights community in over 30 years. The store serves over 8,000 residents and provided 40 jobs to local residents.

Health and Wellness

We have made significant strides to improve the health and wellness of residents. Kaiser Permanente announced that they will be building a new hospital in the Promise Zone. The hospital will provide 3,000 jobs thereby expanding employment opportunities for residents in the zone. Work is also currently underway at new community health clinic serving the Alder Grove and Marina Vista residents. Vision Protective Services and Pacific Dental Services are providing free vision and dental services to 500 students within the zone. With funding from the USDA we expanded access to fresh fruit and vegetables using EBT cards at Farmer’s Markets in the zone. This funding has made it possible for more than 500 community residents to supplement their diets with fresh produce.

Our Faith-Based community has joined us in our efforts to support education, jobs and training, financial literacy and mentoring opportunities that support the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. Over 40 congregations have formed the Fathering Coalition. The congregations are collaborating to identify and train mentors to connect with students in schools throughout the Promise Zone.

Neighborhood Revitalization

Our activities to facilitate sustainable neighborhood revitalization activities that support safe and thriving communities have also been successful. The Housing Authority of the City of Sacramento received a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant for the redevelopment of the Twin Rivers Public Housing Community and the surrounding River District. This transit oriented redevelopment project will provide over 500 mixed-income units and community amenities. I have established the Sacramento Community Police Commission and the Gang Prevention Intervention Task Force. We also established the Officer Next Door program which seeks to strengthen partnerships, foster trust and increase engagement between Sacramento police officers and the residents they serve.

In Sacramento, AmeriCorps VISTA members are working with the Sacramento Housing Redevelopment Agency and key partners to drive the implementation of key strategies, facilitate communication, coordinate the working groups and communities, and support community engagement activities. They are also assisting with outreach and communications to community partners and residents. The Promise Zone Resident Council was established and is supported by the Vistas. The Council members provide information and updates to members of the community about the activities of the Promise Zone committees. The Resident Council members also serve as information officers to their communities about resources that become available through the activities of the Promise Zone. This includes attending community meetings and providing updates and providing feedback to the Implementation Council.

Through our organizational capacity building activities, HUD’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the USDA conducted two free grant writing workshops to capacity audiences. Both of these activities support our goal of expanding the capacity of community organizations to apply for grants to support the work of the Promise Zone.

Educational Opportunities

As we enter our second year our focus will be to establish working committees that will develop specific strategies to address our five Promise Zone goals. Our activities will align with our education and job creation initiatives by creating partnerships to include Promise Zone schools in STEAM programs and workshops. This will include working to increase teacher training for STEAM curriculum for all grade levels. Additional activities will address employment disparities by expanding GED and high school completion opportunities for students within the Promise Zone and increasing occupational skills training and career pathways programs. Our health committee will identify community health interventions strategies to promote healthy behaviors that lead to longer life spans for residents in the Promise Zone.

The tide of momentum is rising across this city. There is contagious enthusiasm that is permeating residents of California’s capital city. Sacramento is a city where failure is not an option. We recognize that our Promise Zone goals are ambitious and we have an unwavering commitment to achieve them.

-Mayor Kevin Johnson

View Sacramento Fact Sheet.

View Sacramento Promise Zone website.

View Sacramento Promise Plan.

St. Louis Promise Zone

St. Louis Promise Zone

2015 In Review

As president of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, it is my pleasure to highlight significant goals and efforts achieved in our first year as a Promise Zone designee.

We are opening doors of opportunity to our most vulnerable residents. In addition to hiring a Promise Zone director, we have seen exciting advancements in the local economy, in workforce development and in education.

The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership is working to socially and economically transform the 28 municipalities in the Promise Zone, drawing on support from the public and private sectors, nonprofit organizations and residents. Established in 2013, the partnership is a regional economic development organization that aims to increase investment and jobs in St. Louis—in both the city and county. The organization is working to facilitate and redefine comprehensive economic development and revitalization throughout the region.

More than $17.7 million in federal investments has been awarded to the St. Louis Promise Zone to increase economic activity, to facilitate innovation and entrepreneurship and to help youth reintegrate back into their communities.

As we approach our second year as a Promise Zone designee, we will begin building our capacity, processes and community partnerships to help accomplish goals.

AmeriCorps VISTA members have been selected and will start this summer. They will work closely with the Promise Zone director on community outreach, on the evaluation of the Promise Zone impact and on the identification of funding and technical assistance opportunities. This added capacity will increase effectiveness and accelerate the accomplishment of goals.

Stakeholder meetings in all 28 municipalities will be held to engage residents in providing input on solutions to community needs. These stakeholder engagement activities will be hosted in partnership with local elected officials, community leaders and nonprofit organizations.

Finally, a capacity building training program is being developed for nonprofits interested in working effectively in the Promise Zone. The program will be designed to strengthen a nonprofit’s ability to fulfill its mission over time and fulfill its role in the Promise Zone collaboration.

I am excited about the future. Through collaboration and consistent, meaningful inclusion, our community will thrive.

Rodney Crim
St. Louis Economic Development Partnership

Promise Zone At a Glance

  • Population - 199,792
  • Poverty Rate - 35.48%
  • Median Income - $26,546
  • Unemployment - 20.91%
  • Twenty-eight municipalities in the Promise Zone are served by seven school districts.
  • Two of the seven school districts are currently not accredited by the state, with one being provisionally accredited. 
  • Two-thirds of residents, aged 25 or older, have completed high school; eight percent have a bachelor’s degree.

Promise Zone Goals

The small geographic footprint of the 28 municipalities has led over time to chronic underfunding of public institutions and services. This predominately African-American community continues to suffer from civic disfranchisement and geographic isolation from opportunities available to other citizens of the metropolitan area.

Recognizing that the challenges faced by the area also represent important opportunities, Promise Zone partners have developed six goals to increase the quality of life and to accelerate comprehensive community revitalization:

  • Enhance workforce readiness
  • Increase economic activity
  • Improve educational outcomes
  • reduce violent crime;
  • Improve health and wellness
  • Develop sustainable communities.

Subcommittees have been established to support each goal. Their work presents a unique opportunity for the St. Louis Promise Zone to merge agendas and tackle shared challenges while prioritizing and developing action plans to track progress. This collaborative approach gives partners the chance to work across sectors, systems and institutions for maximum impact in the communities.

Economic Activity

The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership has a longstanding commitment to increasing economic activity, to facilitating innovation and entrepreneurship, and to supporting business retention and expansion.

One of our successes in this effort has been BioSTL, a St. Louis-based cluster centering on medical and plant biosciences.  In September 2015, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) awarded BioSTL a $500,000 award to support entrepreneurs and small businesses in the region’s biosciences cluster. This SBA award has the potential to be renewed for four additional years, reaching a total of $2.5 million over five years. The SBA cluster award lays the foundation for BioSTL and its partners to advance the St. Louis region’s globally-competitive hub for the industry.  These investments will help transform innovations from small businesses and entrepreneurs into new companies, products, and jobs in the St. Louis region.

Through an Economic Development Administration grant awarded in June 2015, an economic development coordinator was hired to focus on the communities of Ferguson, Dellwood, Jennings, and a portion of unincorporated St. Louis County. The coordinator will work with local officials and business leaders in the impacted areas to coordinate and facilitate resources necessary for long-term economic recovery and growth in the region. Activities include organizing and assisting businesses in finding resources to expand; working to expand and establish business associations; and working with consultants to develop retail and commercial development programs.

Workforce Development

Significant strides are being made in workforce readiness, with a particular focus on opportunities for young people in the St. Louis region. The St. Louis Housing Authority and the St. Louis School of Law Legal Clinic were awarded a $100,000 Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program grant to help young people reintegrate back into their communities. The funds will be used to seal and correct criminal records for target youth, reinstate revoked or suspended drivers’ licenses, receive counseling regarding legal rights in searching for employment; and provide guidance to readmission to school. These grants will provide a vehicle for a second chance to our young people to ensure those exiting the justice system become productive, law-abiding citizens. 

With a $5 million U.S. Department of Labor grant, five workforce centers will provide unemployed young adults with skills-based training, work readiness and job placement services in high-demand occupations and industries. These include retail/hospitality, construction, information technology, healthcare, manufacturing and bioscience.

The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis will triple the size of its planned Community Empowerment Center of Ferguson, which the agency will build on the site of the burned-down QuikTrip convenience store in Ferguson. When completed, the new facility will house the Urban League’s Save Our Sons workforce program, offering job training and placement services to young African-American men in Ferguson and North St. Louis County over the next two years.  The Partnership provided New Market Tax Credits to assist with this new development.

The Salvation Army, Provident, Better Family Life, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and University of Missouri-Extension will provide comprehensive services to residents.

Through these initiatives, the Promise Zone partners will make a lasting difference for families and businesses.


The business community donated approximately $6 million to Ranken Technical College as part of the Ferguson Forward effort. Students in Ferguson and in North St. Louis County will receive a full scholarship to the technical college, which place 98 percent of graduates into employment within six months of graduation. Promise Zone partners are meeting with superintendents, churches, community-based organizations and workforce partners to increase enrollment of Promise Zone residents.

View St. Louis Fact Sheet

View St. Louis Promise Zone website.

View St. Louis Promise Plan.