LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The City Council today approved an ambitious $1 billion plan aimed at turning Jordan Downs, a 700-unit public housing project in Watts, into an “urban village” of affordable and market-rate homes, retail storefronts and community recreational facilities.

The council's 14-0 vote clears the way for the project's developers to apply for $30 million in federal funding for the redevelopment plan, which includes replacing each of the existing World War II-era housing units.

An additional 1,100 residential units would be constructed over several decades -- according to market demand -- on 21 acres of industrial land purchased by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles.

The project, which is in Councilman Joe Buscaino's district, will also include a park, community center, bicycle facility and additional retail space.

With millions of dollars in state and federal funding on the line, Buscaino today urged timely approval of the project's specific plan, saying it will set into motion a “game-changing and life-affirming” transformation of a neglected housing development.

The plans include retail and commercial establishments that “we've been thirsting for in Watts,” Buscaino said, adding it would create 200 permanent retail jobs and 6,400 temporary construction jobs.

The Housing Authority has already spent $45 million to purchase land and prepare for the project, which is near JordanHigh School and Metro Blue Line.

The developer, Bridge Housing and Michaels Development Co., is applying for the $30 million federal grant under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's “Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.” Those funds would help the developer leverage as much as $1 billion for construction.

Buscaino said the project “deserves to be at the top” of the federal funders' list, “because Los Angeles has not received its fair share of funding for this type of redevelopment” and the developer received similar grants in other areas of the country.

The Jordan Downs project has been viewed as a potential model for encouraging more public housing redevelopment projects that blend various income levels in a single community, with physical structures that are more integrated to the surrounding community.

Other council members have already begun keeping tabs on the project.

“There are two housing projects in my (South Los Angeles) district, so we're watching very anxiously, to see how successful this project can be. We know that it will be,” said Councilman Curren D. Price.

“This is a project the whole city can be proud of,” said Councilman Jose Huizar, who chairs the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

“We have been waiting for this change for a long time,” said resident Socorro Diaz, who called the plan a chance for Jordan Downs “to be built into a paradise.”

She urged city officials to “get our utopia built for us” so that they can “have a new future for our children and grandchildren and our next  generations to come.”