JRC Looks At Block Grant Applications

More than a dozen neighborhoods have applied to receive assistance to improve the look of their homes.

The 2014 Renaissance Block Challenge is happening once again to give property owners a chance to renovate their property. This is the fourth year for the program that helps to revitalize neighborhoods throughout the city. The Jamestown Renaissance Corporation spearheads the effort to grant homeowners money to support property improvements, and to build stronger connections within a neighborhood.

Property owners can receive up to a $1,000 matching grant to pay for exterior upgrades to their homes. Each cluster must have at least five property owners intending to fix-up their properties to apply for the grant money. Peter Lombardi, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation deputy director, said 14 different neighborhood clusters pre-applied to be evaluated to potentially be included in the program.

He said there were seven cluster applications from the northside, four from the westside, two from the southside and one located centrally near downtown.

“The number of clusters is similar to the last two years, but the number of properties wanting to participate in all 14 clusters is a little over 200. The most we have ever received before,” Lombardi said.

The pre-applications for the neighborhood clusters was due in March. Now those who have applied are filling out another more detailed survey of what they would like to do with the money if their neighborhood is selected for the program. Lombardi said those applications are due at the end of the week. Once those applications are turned in they will be evaluated.

The evaluating process includes criteria like how close together the properties are that would be renovated, how the neighborhoods coincide with the city’s Urban Design Plan to improve the look of gateway corridors and highly visible areas of the city, and how the neighborhood needs revitalization to prevent decline from happening. However, Lombardi said the most important aspect that makes for a good cluster application is the willingness of the owners to continue to work together after renovations are made.

“One key thing we’re looking for from solid proposals is how they intend to carry on the momentum from the project into future years. We’re interested in looking at parties or little events. How will they build camaraderie and neighborhood spirit? Will they look to have community meetings to keep everyone connected?” he said. “The lasting thing we want to see is neighborhood togetherness. So they advocate for issues in their neighborhood. So they speak up for their neighborhood.”

Lombardi said the number of clusters that will be selected for the program will depend on how much money they can raise. He said their goal was to raise $70,000 for the program this year. So far grant money has been received from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, the Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation, Northwest Savings Bank and from the Jessie Smith Darrah Fund.

“We’re close to hitting our target. We will have more resources than we have had in the past,” he said. “Until we have a final sense of our fundraising goal, we won’t know how many neighborhoods will be selected.”

Lombardi said last year there were four neighborhood clusters – southside near Fairfield Avenue and Superior Street; the westside on Hallock Street; downtown on Lafayette and Jefferson streets; and the northside on Hotchkiss Street – with 70 properties being improved.

As for the downtown grant programs spearheaded by the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, Lombardi said they are still in the pre-application process. He said once that process is concluded, applicants will then be asked to fill out another survey with more detail about what will be done if they’re selected.

“This process will take some time,” Lombardi said. “We want to select the most promising areas and ask them for more specific numbers.”

Lombardi said by the middle of May the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation will announced which neighborhoods and downtown applicants will be receiving grant money.