After being in limbo the past 10 months, the HOPE VI housing project at Center Court may soon be back on track.

Niagara Falls Housing Authority Executive Director Stephanie Cowart said Tuesday work at the site could restart by the end of the month, pending approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We’re very optimistic and hopeful in the next week or two we can get everyone mobilized and back to work,” she said during the housing authority’s board of commissioners meeting.

The project’s first phase ground to a halt last August after officials from the Niagara County Health Department expressed concerns about incinerator ash found under the site of the old Center Court Park playground. Subsequent tests revealed the material was nonhazardous, and the health department issued an approval notice for the project’s soil management plan. Under that plan, the project’s contractor will be required to cover the site with two feet of clean fill.

In November, the City Council approved a recommendation from Mayor Paul Dyster to fund the cleanup efforts using $3 million in casino money, including $1 million that had already been set aside for the second phase of the project.

Dyster said he signed the agreement last week after a few technical issues regarding the soil cleanup cleared the engineering department. He pointed out $1 million is coming from the city’s 2008 share of casino funds, which have not yet been received. The council will have to re-vote on that portion of the allocation.

Since it includes additional funding for the project, Cowart said the cleanup and work restart must first be approved by HUD, which will be discussing the issue today. HUD awarded the city $20 million toward the proposed $72 million housing development project in the North End.

She maintains other funding for the project, including what’s been designated by HUD, remains intact and that the housing authority continues to search out other revenue sources to cover the remainder of the cost.

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