Landscaping, porch repairs, painting, sidewalk replacement, and many other projects will soon be underway in the city as part of the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation’s annual Renaissance Block Challenge. The program gives property owners access to matching grants and other assistance to complete a wide range of exterior improvements. Five neighborhood clusters located on Beechview, Dearborn, Ellis, Euclid, and Hotchkiss were chosen for this year’s finalists. The five groups include eighty six property owners and are a mix of owner-occupants and landlords.
The Renaissance Block Challenge is a component of the neighborhood revitalization plan adopted by Jamestown’s City Council in December 2010. It is managed by the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation (JRC).
“We want to support exterior improvements to clusters of homes in order to boost curb appeal and build stronger blocks,” said Mary Maxwell, the JRC’s Neighborhood Project Associate. “We also want to see people working together to improve their neighborhoods and address problems proactively,” she said. Competing clusters were required to have at least five participating property owners to maximize the program’s impact.
In their applications, participants outlined exterior improvements they wish to complete this summer and skills they can bring to projects in their cluster. Each is now eligible for a dollar-for-dollar match to facilitate their projects up to $2,500. Some property owners are doing simple projects to spruce up their homes such as replacing bushes, painting trim, etc. Other projects are larger such as replacing walkways, rebuilding porches, or painting one or more sides of their homes.
Funding for the Renaissance Block Challenge’s matching grants is being provided by the John A. and Oscar Johnson Memorial Trust.
Beechview Avenue, bordering Washington Middle School, is one of the preferred routes kids take when heading home at the end of their school day. The 100 block of Beechview organized early in 2015 and has already achieved many of their desired goals for strengthening their neighborhood. Brigetta Overcash, Beechview’s cluster leader, says the increased neighborhood organization has “opened communication between neighbors who have drifted apart because life is busy and they live at opposite ends of the block. Our new communication system has already paid off. Amazing connections continue to unfold”.
Dearborn Street, located on the south side of town, is tucked in between Newland and Hazeltine Avenues on a beautiful brick street. In 2014, the Dearborn section near Forest Ave was chosen for a RBC grant. This year’s 2015 RBC Dearborn section is located between Charles and Sampson. This 2015 block cluster was motivated to apply for a RBC after observing the very active 2014 Dearborn cluster. Yvonne McNallie, the 2015 Dearborn cluster leader, spearheaded the efforts and rallied her neighbors. We “found out that we have a very nice bunch of people living on Dearborn, people we didn’t know at all or not well, and they range from young marrieds with small children to older retired folks.” There is a possibility that these two sections of Dearborn will merge into one Dearborn cluster and work together to achieve their combined goals of strengthening their neighborhood.
Ellis Avenue is located on the west side of town just across the sixth street bridge and within easy walking distance to Lincoln Elementary School. Once again, we see the community development momentum move from one end of the street to the other. A very strong Ellis cluster was part of the 2014 RBC. This year’s cluster is located near Hallock and includes two properties on West Third Street, The Oaks, a bed and breakfast and the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. Ellis Aveune’s cluster leader, Jerry Nutt, says “we hope to build on the work already done by Tammy and Doug Nordwall, who coordinated the 2014 Ellis Avenue RBC. We want Lakin to be a bridge between our two RBC groups and join together as a strong neighborhood”.
Euclid Avenue, located between Lakeview and Prendergast Avenues, is a diverse group that works well together. With only ten properties, this cluster is packed with power and potential. Cluster leader Richard Baer says it is our duty to “summon our collective energies to maintain our neighborhood and to make it better, for ourselves and for the City of Jamestown.” With plans in place to build cohesiveness and momentum forward, this cluster is already working with the Unitarian Church to maintain their raised garden beds and with Patrick Morris, Executive Director of C.O.D.E., to build two additional garden beds at the Euclid Apartments.
This year the Renaissance Block Challenge allowed past participants to reapply for the grant with the stipulation that 60% of their cluster had to be new participants. This empowered the past participating property owners to become ambassadors for the RBC program and to advance the renaissance work occurring in their neighborhoods. The Hotchkiss cluster met all the criteria of the grant for 2015.
Hotchkiss Street is developing into a well-established neighborhood group. First participating in the RBC program in 2013, this cluster quickly became the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation’s (JRC) “poster child”, proving their worth with very successful plans for community building. Eight 2013 RBC property owners returned this year and were able to mobilize sixteen new applicants for the RBC grant. Building on the momentum created in 2013, Stacey Tanner, cluster leader, says “the neighbors are excited to continue pursuing the long-term goals of creating a green neighborhood, while working together to address a few short-term projects as well.” One of those short term goals is to work with the Roger Tory Peterson Institute (RTPI) Nature Preserve whose western entrance is located at the bottom of Hotchkiss, but is hidden due to litter and overgrowth of grasses. During Hands on Jamestown (Saturday, May 16th), the Hotchkiss cluster plans to focus on cleaning up that area. Since their cluster’s inception, Hotchkiss neighbors have participated as a group many activities: the Guinness World Record Grape-Stomping event last fall, Hands on Jamestown, an Easter Egg Hunt for all the kids on the block, a Haunted House to raise funds for prostate Cancer, and a street-long yard sale with proceeds from the hot dog sales and Alex’s Lemonade Stand going to childhood cancer research. This is a very active and supportive neighborhood group with strong leaders that share the work and decision making with everyone.
Instructions for the 2016 Renaissance Block Challenge will be posted in October 2015. Pre-applications will be due starting Thursday, October 1, and will be due by Friday, December 11.
For more information on the Renaissance Block Challenge or to see updates on this year’s projects, please visit the Renaissance Block Challenge page or call 664-2477. You can also see updates on the JRC’s Facebook page.
The Jamestown Renaissance Corporation is a nonprofit organization that supports downtown and neighborhood revitalization in Jamestown, NY, by promoting reinvestment, stakeholder engagement, and innovation.