NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY -

The City of New Bern plans major changes to several downtown neighborhoods and commercial areas.

In November, the city was awarded the HUD Choice Neighborhood Initiative Planning Grant of $400,000 federal grant to revitalize the Greater Five Points area. Officials said it was a highly competitive process to get the grant and New Bern was one of only nine areas selected across the country.

Local leaders gathered Monday Morning to discuss the city's future and how to turn a place of poverty into a place people want to live. Officials said they also want to use the money to bring in more jobs, better education and healthcare services, as well as,  break down barrier between this area and other parts of the city.

The transformation plan would focus on revitalizing housing developments like Craven Terrace, Trent Court, the greater Duffyfield Neighborhood and even downtown Five Points.

"The Greater Five Points has high unemployment, poor healthcare access, high teen pregnancy rate and high crime that are nearly three times that of the city as a whole," Interim City Manager Mark Stephens said.

Sherri Midgett has lived in the Craven Terrace area for more than 50 years.

"This area went from being a thriving corridor of businesses to just being the bleak, empty spaces you see now," she explained.

Midgett said her once vibrant community has become a dark place.  

"I’ve seen it at its best and it has come to its worst. This is a community that can and will grow if only given the opportunity to do so," she said.