Volunteers came by the carload to the 2600 block of Convention Street on April 2 to help paint and build a deck around one of the neighborhood houses.
“We have groups from Baton Rouge General, Home Depot and City Year here,” said Samuel Sanders, executive director of Mid City Redevelopment Alliance, which organizes projects like this all over Mid City.
Volunteers went to work cleaning up the back yard, as well, when another van filled with volunteers from Cenikor pulled up outside of the house.
“So we were able to start work on some other project I wasn’t sure we’d have time to do,” he said, like clearing a couple of empty lots of tall grass, and cleaning up the sidewalks.
The project is part of a larger effort to not only beautify, but also to promote neighborhood building.
As part of a long-term commitment to this block, Sanders said, MCRA has raised funds for and built two homes on lots next door to Saturday’s project house, with tenants signed up for lease-purchase programs on the properties.
“We’re planning on doing the same thing to this empty lot,” Sanders said, pointing to the manicured yard nestled between the lease-purchase houses and the house being painted.
His organization is serious about what they’re doing, he said, and doesn’t want to forget that while they can provide resources, it’s the residents who build neighborhoods.
Sanders and his staff fanned the neighborhood last week, he said, knocking on doors and getting feedback from residents about what they’d like to see in the area.
He’s also looking for elements that tie the neighbors together, which can be as simple as what everyone calls it.
On maps, he said, the region bordered by North 22nd Street, North Boulevard, Acadian Thruway and Florida Boulevard is sometimes labeled as “Hickey Town, or Hickey Duncan Mather Town, so we’ve been referring to it as Hickey Town. It was probably named after a developer,” he said.
But one of the neighbors told him that she’d always called it Lincoln Quarters, he said.
Sanders wants residents to decide how their neighborhood is branded, he said, and he’s excited about getting people involved.
But neighborhood maintaining is as important as neighborhood building, he said.
Along with FIXUP!, MCRA concluded a Neighborhood Challenge, according to a release from Darrius Smith, MCRA Neighborhood Development manager. Homeowners and neighborhood association teams in Ogden Park, Capital Heights, Melrose Place, and a Garden District group called Poets Corner competed to beautify their homes and neighborhoods. Gift cards from Home Depot of $250 for the winning homeowner and $150 for the winning team were donated as prizes.
“People come out of their homes to interact and work together. It’s great to see participants come together, exchanging ideas and gathering funds to beautify their neighborhoods,” said Robinn Betts, MCRA Community Initiatives manager.
The FIXUP! Mid City beautification challenge was sponsored by Tipton Associates, and the houses on Convention Street were funded in large part by grants from the Office of Community Development, Sanders said.
Poets Corner won the Neighborhood Challenge, Sanders said.