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West End grows more inclusive partnerships for community
Focus on increased neighborhood participation
 
Published Wednesday, November 8, 2017 11:23 am
by Ashley Mahoney

FILE PHOTO
Historic West End Director Alysia Osborne.

Historic West End’s growth doesn’t have to cost its character.


Steps have been taken to revitalize the area since voters sanctioned $20 million for the Comprehensive Neighborhood Improvement Program in 2014.

“We’re part of Charlotte Center City Partners, but it’s a partnership with the community to create an active neighborhood center around the Johnson C. Smith University area, which is essentially from I-77 to French Street,” Historic West End Director Alysia Osborne said.

Five Points – West Trade Street, State Street, 5th Street, Rozzelles Ferry Road and Beatties Ford Road – are a targeted area of the CNIP.

“Community leaders approached Center City Partners and said ‘we have this major investment happening,’” Osborne said. “How can we have a cabinet organization to help shape how the area grows through these investments?”

A Knight Foundation grant of $1.5 million over three years leads the development.

“We’re in year three now,” Osborne said. “My first three months on the job [in 2015], we created, with the community, a tactical plan. Essentially, it’s our blueprint for how we plan to engage the community.”

A key issue in the area is gentrification, which continues to challenge the area on growth without pushing residents out. That’s where the Better Block Foundation comes in.

“It empowers communities to reclaim underutilized or vacant public space,” Osborne said. “It kind of gives them the toolbox to reimagine if they feel like it’s not their public space.”

In anticipation of the redevelopment of the Five Points intersection, Historic West End will host a Five Points Better Block build week from Nov. 14-18. From vendors to constructing bike racks, the idea revolves around creating a space for the community.

“We were familiar with the work of Better Block, and knew how it could transform how the community feels about their role in building public space, but also how the government can make it easier or become more of a partner with creating public space. For us in West End, we thought it would work with the Capital Project.”

Testing ideas is one thing, but Osborne is particularly excited to see the city bring them to life.

“The thing that made it most attractive to our community was that once we test these ideas, the city will actually build some of those components,” she said. “It wasn’t just your typical tactical urbanism where it’s yay, we celebrate the space for a couple of days and then it goes away, but we will actually see these improvements. It’s the first time that the city has ever done a community based design to delivery on a capital project, where the community is engaged, and they’ve provided feedback over the last three years about what they would like to see in that area.

“We’re testing these ideas before they finalize the design and build it. It goes from that temporary tactical nature of what Better Blocks typically does to actually partnering with a capital project that will actually stay in the space. It’s a design that’s by the people, for the people. I know it sounds a little cliché, but it really will be that type of project, and it’s the first time the city has ever done that.”  

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