For too long, Jamestown's neighborhoods have been neglected.
Too few property owners took an interest in maintaining their homes and property. It is a problem that has grown over time as the percentage of renters overtook the number of homeowners. As is stated in the city's neighborhood plan, developed by Charles Buki with input from city residents and the city Development Department, the lack of upkeep on one home impacts the value of an entire block.
Both city and non-profit agencies are working to develop the resources needed to resolve Jamestown's neighborhood issues - but all the outside resources in the world pale in comparison to what can be done when members take the initiative to get involved.
That is one reason it is so edifying to see the continued efforts of those who live in the city's neighborhoods. Recently, more than 70 Jamestown residents who participated in the Renaissance Block Challenge gathered at the Dr. Lillian Vitanza Ney Renaissance Center. The projects received money from the Jamestown Renaissance Corp. but were completed through the efforts of neighborhood volunteers. Work included landscaping, painting, sidewalk replacement, porch repair and more in areas centered around Hallock Street, Hotchkiss Street, Lafayette Street and Superior Street. The Renaissance Corp. previously reported such interest in the block challenge program that it had to turn neighborhoods away because it didn't have enough money to give. It is a sign of attitudes changing in some city neighborhoods.
Rhonda Swanson, leader of the Lafayette and Jefferson neighborhood cluster, agreed, stating nothing bad could happen by taking part in the Block Challenge.
"It's been a lot of work, but most of it's been very enjoyable," Swanson said. "I got to know my neighbors, which was very positive. And, it seems as though even the people who didn't join started changing the appearance of their property for the better as well. There's still so much for us to do, but this was a huge step forward."
Such activity is one hallmark of the neighborhood plan. One can only hope these budding neighborhood relationships result in bonds as strong as those shown by Northside Pride, a group of city property owners that has been working to transform a 113-home area of the city's north side for several years. It recently sent the city Development Department its annual State of the Neighborhood Report, a PDF that includes photos and descriptions of nine homes Northside Pride officials say need attention from both homeowners and possibly city code inspectors. Drawing attention to problem properties is another way to start the process of neighborhood rehabilitation.
There still much heavy lifting left before Jamestown's neighborhood renaissance is complete, but the work of such involved volunteers is a wonderful first step.
A little pride can go a long way.