JAMESTOWN – What started as a church repainting project on Palmer Street in Jamestown has blossomed into a model for neighborhood revitalization thanks to church leaders, surrounding property owners, and Jamestown’s Renaissance Block Challenge.
St. Elia’s Albanian Orthodox Church, a small congregation at the corner of Palmer and Sprague on the city’s South Side, had long been planning to repaint their Carpenter Gothic-style church when they learned about the Renaissance Block Challenge—a program of the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation (JRC) that offers matching funds to groups of neighbors who work simultaneously on exterior improvement projects.
“The program is designed to start conversations between neighbors about the future of their streets—and that’s exactly what St. Elia’s did,” said Peter Lombardi, JRC’s Director of Neighborhood Initiatives. “Dolores Parsons from the church contacted neighbors and was able to put together a group of property owners who were committed to making exterior improvements this year.”
Mayor Sam Teresi noted that St. Elia’s is a good example of the role that neighborhood institutions can play in convening neighbors, facilitating a discussion, and identifying relatively small actions that can make a big difference. “Churches and other institutions are critical to the health of Jamestown’s neighborhoods. St. Elia’s has shown us that institutions working hand-in-hand with their neighbors can build confidence and spur revitalization.”
Seven Renaissance Blocks were selected for participation this year after an application process, including the group led by St. Elia’s. The others are on Lakeview Avenue, Chestnut Street, the Forest Heights neighborhood, the Royal/Woodworth and Harding/Todd areas of the Westside, and at the corner of Newton and Bowen.
Now in its second year, the Renaissance Block Challenge provides up to $1,000 to match the work of property owners on everything from painting and porch repair, to landscaping, walkways, and new front doors. “We want to support exterior work that builds confidence in Jamestown’s neighborhoods. People are far more likely to invest their energy and resources into their homes if they sense that others are doing the same,” said Lombardi. “St. Elia’s attractive new Victorian color scheme raises the bar for the neighborhood and sends a positive signal to others who are contemplating home improvements.”
Support for the Renaissance Block Challenge is provided by a range of local funders, including the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, the Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation, the Lenna Foundation, Northwest Savings Bank, and the Chautauqua County Housing Trust Fund. Businesses are also assisting participants with discounts and special coupons, including Brigiotta’s Greenhouse and Garden Center, Chautauqua Brick, and Lowe’s of Warren.
“We’re proud to support the Renaissance Block Challenge and help serve as a catalyst for reinvestment in Jamestown’s neighborhoods,” said Randy Sweeney, Executive Director of the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. “But it all starts with neighborhood leaders and property owners who are willing to make a difference.”