Monday, March 18, 2019

A Real and Lasting Impact

Carla and Micheal Parker have owned their two story home on E. 28th Street since 1999. Raising kids and working multiple jobs they have worked hard to maintain and improve the house, built in 1914. When Revitalize E28 Grant information was delivered to the Parker home by an Academy Neighborhood Grant Administrator in June of 2018, Micheal jumped at the chance to use the matching grant funds to improve some rattling, inefficient windows on the front of his house.

The Parker family was the first recipient of Revitalize E28 matching grant money. They won't be the last. In 2018 The Academy Neighborhood Association was awarded an Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority Renaissance Block Grant - funding to provide up to 20 homes on E. 28th Street with matching funds for street-side home improvements.

Why E. 28th Street? The answer is simple: research.

The Erie Refocused plan, prepared for the City of Erie and first unveiled in 2016, gives each neighborhood in Erie advice on "where to start working". (Source: Erie Refocused, page 67)

The Erie Refocused plan asserts that Erie should "provide financial incentives and support for home improvements on blocks with high potential for return on investment". That's exactly what the Revitalize E28 Grant Program is aiming to do. The Revitalize E28 program offers property owners a 50 percent reimbursement (up to $1,000) for improvement projects that will make a significant impact on not only the structure of the home, but also the views from the street.

ECGRA's Renaissance Block program was patterned after similar programs in other cities, where groups of neighbors work together to improve the look and feel of their part of town. In Jamestown, New York, the Renaissance Block Challenge has been provided more than 1.3 million dollars to over 450 properties in 45 different neighborhoods

The Revitalize E28 Renaissance Block Grant program was planned for two stages.

In Phase 1, 27 properties in the 300 block of E. 28th St. were eligible for funding. Three improvement projects were approved and one, the Parker family's, has been completed and reimbursed. Work on two other projects in Phase 1 is scheduled to take place in spring and summer of 2019.

In Phase 2, 35 properties in and near the 200 block of E. 28th St. are eligible for funding. As of late March 2019, all of the property owners have been notified and given paperwork with details of the program.

To promote participation in the Revitalize E28 program property owners will be given a yard sign to display while the work is being completed - and even longer if they would like.

There is funding for 10 projects in each phase. Because only three projects were approved in Phase 1 in 2018 it is likely that the application process will be reopened for Phase 1 properties. 

We're excited to see the changes that will be taking place in the heart of our neighborhood, and we're grateful for the opportunity given to our organization by the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

50 Years on Parade Street

50 years. 

That's how long Kevin Brigaman has been in the donut (doughnut?) business on Parade Street. He started on January 1, 1967 at his father's shop, Mighty Fine Donuts, at 2612 Parade Street. "I was here when I was 8 years old." Brigaman recalled on a recent Thursday evening. 

Mighty Fine Donuts is Erie's best donut shop. I mean, we have some fantastic donut and pastry options in Erie, to be sure. But in the Academy Neighborhood we have to be partial to the shop that is just a few blocks away, known throughout the region, and possibly one of our neighborhood's most un-leveraged assets.

I met with Brigaman as part of the Association's efforts to reach out to neighborhood shops and stores through our newly formed Business Outreach Committee. I was joined by longtime neighborhood resident Tom Staszewski who volunteered to be on the committee. The committee's goal is to meet with owners or managers of one business each month, and to learn as much about that business and the ways the neighborhood could possibly work to help the business thrive.

The Academy Neighborhood Association's mission statement directs us to not only "support neighborhood assets" but to also "promote appropriate economic growth" in the thirty-block area that we call home. While Mighty Fine is primarily known for its donuts, we should also remember that it is the nearest coffee shop for most of the blocks in our neighborhood, and a comfortable coffee shop where people meet and talk is considered a good building block for a strong neighborhood

Here are some brief highlights from our conversation: 

In what ways is your location beneficial? "Hey, look at the traffic!" According to this Penn Dot map of average daily traffic volume, 13,000 vehicles a day travel the stretch of Parade between East 26th and East 28th Streets.

In what ways is your location a challenge? "We have had people begging. We had to put up "No Loitering" signs. We had a problem with kids after hours, the curfew helped, because we could call the police." The City of Erie passed a 10 pm curfew for anyone 17 and under in September of 2015.

What positive changes have you seen in the neighborhood recently? "A lot of immigrants and LECOM." There are a number of immigrant owned businesses on this stretch of Parade and LECOM opened its Eastside Medical Center across the street at 2625 Parade Street in 2013. 

What else do you have besides donuts? "Lottery tickets, coffee, pop and soda, cigarettes."

What is your biggest asset? "The donuts win, hands down". 

I couldn't agree more. 

L-R: Business Outreach Committee member Tom Staszewski, Mighty Fine Owner Kevin Brigaman, and Academy Neighborhood Association President Bob Hand

The Academy Neighborhood Association's Business Outreach Committee will continue to meet with owners and managers of organizations in our neighborhood and we will continue to post information about the meetings here.