HUD opens DC storefront: 1st of 81 neighborhood centers planned

Tom Boland (
Fri, 8 May 1998 14:18:27 -0700 (PDT)


  By Lawrence L. Knutson
  Associated Press Writer
  Thursday, May 7, 1998; 4:19 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Cabinet department is coming ``out of the office
tower'' and opening its doors to the public at a storefront service center
much like the corner drugstore it used to be.

Andrew Cuomo, secretary of Housing and Urban Affairs, says the new ``HUD
Next Door'' center with its consumer-friendly design is a physical symbol
of the changes his department is undergoing as it attempts to ``reinvent''
itself and shed its image of corruption and failure.

The 8,000-square-foot facility, which opened Wednesday, offers
person-to-person contact with HUD staff members and information on an array
of services, including applying for HUD loans and grants, buying and
building housing, applying for rental assistance, filing housing
discrimination complaints, and help for the homeless.

Located just north of Capitol Hill, Cuomo said HUD's Washington storefront
is the first of 81 HUD neighborhood centers that eventually will open in
cities across the country.

Most HUD regional offices are located in standard-issue government office
buildings. But Cuomo said that will change.

``You have to go into the community if you are going to make a
difference,'' Cuomo said. ``You have to come out of the office tower and
come into the neighborhoods.''

The new storefront is bright and airy with upholstered seating, lots of
computers and dividers emblazoned with detailed area street maps. At the
entrance, an orange kiosk with a computer screen like a bank ATM offers a
24-hour touch-screen display of HUD services.

David Osborne, the private-sector management expert who helped launch the
reinventing government initiative with Vice President Al Gore, said Cuomo's
reorganization efforts are beginning to pay off with clearer missions,
better customer service and more effective efforts to control the waste,
fraud and abuse that has been a HUD hallmark.

HUD plans to open storefront offices later this year in Albuquerque, N.M.;
Baltimore; Sacramento, Calif.; and Grand Rapids, Mich. Scheduled for 1999
are HUD storefronts in Cincinnati; Shreveport, La.; Reno, Nev.; Honolulu;
and Casper, Wyo.

Officials said the Washington storefront cost $687,000 including a one-time
$233,000 design fee that will not be a part of the cost of future
neighborhood offices. Cuomo's office said HUD saved more than $100,000 in
rent by moving from the office space it previously leased.


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