Community groups are getting started on improving properties across Erie County, but first, they’re leaning on a nearby city for guidance.
Improving a neighborhood can sometimes mean a series of small changes to make a longtime difference. That’s the idea behind ECGRA’s Renaissance Grant Program. It’s a concept that is new to Erie County but not to the region as a whole.
Erie County has several programs in place to combat blight but one community found a method that works.
Mary Maxwell, Neighborhood Project Manager in Jamestown, says, “We need to start establishing identity with the neighborhoods and have neighbors meet neighbors; help neighbors solve their problems.”
That’s the idea behind the Renaissance Block Challenge in Jamestown, New York. It’s a match grant program that encourages groups of neighbors to collaborate on exterior improvements to their properties.
Since it started in 2011, more than 400 property owners have participated. And, the overall home values have gone up about 4%.
ECGRA wants to echo that success, modeling its Renaissance Block Grants after the Jamestown system.
Tom Maggio, ECGRA Grant Manager, says, “It’s really worked. This is a small amount of investment really encouraged other people to work on their homes and invest and neighborhood after neighborhood is taking on the challenge.”
Community leaders say the grant program is not an overnight fix, but it’s expected to gradually change the way residents view their neighborhoods.
Maxwell tells us, “The grant was a carrot to wave in front of the neighbors and say, ‘here, organize yourselves and you can get this grant to fix up the outside of your house.'”
Right now, ECGRA has $485,000 at work in 10 separate communities through the grant program.
In Jamestown, the property owners have invested more than $860,000 with a reimbursement of $440,000 from small matching grants.
That project manager will be coaching the grant recipients in Erie County in hopes of getting a similar result.