(Generocity file photo)
The Wells Fargo Regional Foundation has awarded a five-year, $750,000 grant to New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC) that will support a resident-driven revitalization plan for the neighborhood known as North of Lehigh.
“New Kensington has spent a number of years working to organize the neighbors in that area, which was an area that had been pretty much abandoned for a long time,” said Sandy Salzman, the executive director of NKCDC.
“The residents were held captive in their houses because of the drug trade and crime,” she added.
Over the past four years, NKCDC has worked closely with community members to discern their priorities by hosting meetings, planning exercises, and surveying door-to-door.
But the process was slow-going at first.
Having been promised change in the past that was never delivered, “the residents were very distrustful of outside forces coming in,” Salzman said.
However, NKCDC’s 25-year reputation in the community, coupled with its extensive work in Kensington, helped to ease residents’ concerns.
The resulting plan is a working tool for local residents, organizations and business owners to concentrate on their collective goals, increase resident participation, and direct their efforts toward positive change.
The first priority for residents, Salzman explained, is improving safety.
“They want their neighborhood back. They want what everybody wants — a nice, clean, safe neighborhood where they can let their kids play outside,” she said.
Along with reducing crime, the plan will support the transformation of blighted land into green spaces as well as work to secure capital investments for the neighborhood.
One of the first major projects slated for development is the Orinoka Mills Complex, a former industrial property at the corner of East Somerset and Ruth Streets, which will become a 51-unit residential and mixed-use building. NKCDC plans to move its offices there.
“A lot of our work will be happening in that area,” Salzman said.
Image via NKCDC-30-
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