Guided by the Our West Bayfront Community Plan, Our West Bayfront is a nonprofit neighborhood organization dedicated to improving quality of life in Erie’s West Bayfront neighborhoods by promoting civic involvement, thoughtful development, historical preservation, and neighborhood pride. In 2018 dozens of community partners and hundreds of residents came together to bring this mission to life through an exciting variety of programs and initiatives. Together, we are moving the City of Erie, and our West Bayfront neighborhoods, forward block by block.
One of OWB’s highest priorities is to assist property owners to make repairs to their homes. Though the district is home to many historic and architecturally significant buildings, the number of aging homes that need repair threatens the long-term stability of our neighborhoods. OWB works strategically to offer grants to property owners to address common issues such as roof repairs and window replacement. To date, OWB has made repairs at 51 properties, leveraging $50,000 in investments by property owners. In 2018 we launched the Gridley Park Renaissance Block Program with a $150,000 grant from Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority. This program will assist approximately 25 property owners adjacent to Gridley Park in the heart of the West Bayfront.
Westerdahl Park, a new “pocket” park on W. 4th & Poplar Streets, has been created with the involvement of dozens of community members and a visiting AmeriCorps National Community Conservation Corps (NCCC) team on a lot previously occupied by a blighted home. The park includes new community gardening beds which will be available for residents to use beginning in the spring. Neighbors contributed special touches such as such as an engraving bench and solar lighting provided by John Reitinger and a Little Free Library constructed by Lewis Prest. Named for the corner store that once served this West Bayfront neighborhood, the park is a sign of neighborhood renewal. We are thankful for the many residents, organizations, and funders that played a role to transform this lot into a community space the neighbors can be proud of.
In March, OWB purchased the two-story building on the 400 Block of West 4th Street, known to many as the old Howard Photography studio. Over the summer we began to prepare the building for renovations with the help of the NCCC team. The rehabilitation of this project will anchor the revitalization of the entire West 8th Street commercial corridor, which is already seeing the results of investments by entrepreneurs and property owners. In addition to the West 8th Street project, OWB purchased a two-unit home on Walnut Street near Bayview Park which we intend to rehabilitate and provide as affordable rental housing to two families.
2018 was an exciting year of broadening the scope of impact for our community events. These events are a true representation of the diversity, creativity, and energy that our neighborhoods have to offer. We look forward to welcoming back long-time neighbors each year, and were excited to see many new faces as well. Events such as National Night Out in Gridley Park help to unite neighbors and they demonstrate the spirit of the West Bayfront to the entire region. Through stronger relationships and a rapidly expanding network of community partners, we look forward to an even more exciting calendar of 2019 West Bayfront events.
This year OWB secured $400,000 in grant funds allocated towards specific projects such as the Bayview Park Transformation, the renovation of the building located on 404 W. 8th St., and the renovation of the two-family residential home on Walnut. We are pleased that our funding partners share our optimism and have confidence in the community’s vision for the West Bayfront neighborhoods, and we look forward to working collaboratively to achieve the goals we have set for the coming years.