Forest Avenue and Lakeview Avenue have a lot in common. Both are major neighborhood thoroughfares. Both have some of Jamestown's grandest and most historic homes. And both have suffered from the steady and discouraging creep of disinvestment in recent years.
But they also have this in common: Committed groups of neighbors who are working to turn things around-and who are doing so in ways that other neighborhoods can easily emulate.
Let's start at Lakeview, where the Lakeview Avenue Community Action Project (LACAP) has been busy this year on a number of projects. At their monthly meetings over the winter, they planned for the beautification of a city-owned triangle at the corner of Lakeview and Newton avenues. Together with city crews they installed a new planting bed in May during Hands-On Jamestown, converting the previously plain lawn into a neighborhood focal point with a flowering dogwood tree as its centerpiece.
Members of LACAP have also worked closely with city officials on the reconstruction of Lakeview Avenue, now finishing its second phase after last year's work from Buffalo Street to Newton Avenue. Using their meetings as a forum for city officials to present construction plans and inform the neighbors, they provided the city with feedback and suggestions on logistical and design issues-leading to better results and fewer headaches during construction season.
And earlier this month in the parking lot of Christ First United Methodist Church, LACAP coordinated their first block party and flea market as a way to bring neighbors together to socialize and raise money for neighborhood improvements, including ideas to draw attention to the avenue's architectural heritage.
All of this further boosts a neighborhood that participated in the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation's Renaissance Block Challenge in 2012 and supported the development of a community garden at the southern end of Lakeview. In very little time, the energy and passion of the avenue's residents have been converted into action, results, and noticeable momentum.
The same can be said for Forest Avenue, where a new neighborhood watch group was formed in late 2011 at the northern end of the street-an area they call "Forest Heights." As the first neighborhood to apply for the 2012 Renaissance Block Challenge, homeowners on Forest Avenue, Prather Avenue and Terrace Place spent last summer working on a wide range of exterior improvements.
They also worked with the Fenton History Center and Jamestown Renaissance Corporation to have a sign built and installed on Fenton property, serving as a front door to the historic street and bolstering the area's sense of identity. A similar identity-building project-the distribution of flowers for front yard planting-continued this year, as did the group's successful block party.
Further south on Forest Avenue, the work of an established neighborhood watch in the 500 block and the designation of Superior and Fairfield avenues as Renaissance Blocks in 2013, are building similar momentum from the other direction.
Altogether, these activities are changing attitudes and beginning to have an impact on physical conditions along Lakeview and Forest avenues. More people notice, more people participate, and pretty soon it becomes a movement. Combined with more established groups such as Northside PRIDE and Park West (formerly known as the Wild Westside), these groups are demonstrating that communication, good ideas, and the committed leadership of people such as Elaine Joneson on Forest Avenue, Marijka Lampard on Lakeview Avenue, and many others, can make something happen.
Are you ready to start a similar movement in your neighborhood? Contact Mary Maxwell at the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation at 664-2477 to learn more, or visit the JRC online at jamestownrenaissance.org and Facebook at jrc14701.
Renaissance Reflections is a biweekly feature with news from the front lines of Jamestown's revitalization.