“A new neighbor is moving in and seeks help with some heavy items.”
“Who can help me find out who to talk to about the helicopter flying over the no fly zone at 3 in the morning?”
“Come this Saturday to the Garden Walk, showcasing 9 neighborhood gardens”
“There’s a property petitioning for rezoning on Lincolnway to put in a convenience store and gas station; come speak out against or show your support.”
“Thanks for looking out, everyone – the cat has come home!”
“Adopt-a-Block Neighborhood Trash Pick-up is this Saturday. Donuts at eight!”
There’s an energetic vibe in the air. Excitement even. Words come to mind that seem somehow seem to be in the middle of being dusted off: neighborhood, community. These are words that started off in the collective memory of so many as Mr. Roger’s world of make-believe, but not translating to the reality of what our lifestyle was actually like. We discovered that there was a world out there that didn’t actually value those things, but rather valued the individual, and commodity, and not talking to strangers.
But now the words are the same words that are the catch phrases being passed word-of-mouth. Neighborhood. Community. It’s happening. It’s not perfect. But you might just feel at home in this imperfect here.
I’ve lived in the Near Northwest Neighborhood in South Bend (the area flanking Portage Ave on both sides as it runs between Lincolnway and Diamond/Angela) for ten years. When I bought my house, I chose the one that needed some elbow grease (figuring no matter how clumsy I was with it, my neighbors would appreciate some improvement). It’s surrounded on three sides by other houses. One, apparently, Knute Rockne lived in at some point and was rented out. One was empty, but completely remodeled, undergoing a foreclosure. The third was mostly vacant, but rented out from time to time to neighbors who didn’t seem to understand that if they tied their large dog to a tree that was on the line between our properties (the one without a fence), the dog could actually live in my yard too.
Within five years, all of those houses were filled. In fact, while I thought the neighborhood as a whole was really great when I moved in – each year it was clear that more and more people were moving in.
Some might begin to question at this point – doesn’t that mean that people were moving out?
Of course, sometimes, that was the case. But often, people were moving into places that were providing new opportunities. Places that others had walked away from (in the case of many out of town investors), and it turned out, places that often had been reclaimed by a local Community Development Corporation – the Near Northwest Neighborhood, Inc. (NNN).
I got involved in the NNN, Inc. about nine years ago, matching up my interest in neighborhood rebuilding and my interest as an architect. This all happened at the same time I moved into the neighborhood. I have to admit, I hadn’t experienced anything like it. I used to work for an urban design firm and work with CDCs, and other development type group. I knew that the NNN was a legitimate player, renovating multiple houses a year to impeccable design standards. But what I’d never seen before was an organization doing this sort of work that was also focused on doing some of the equally difficult (and rewarding) work of community building. Neighborhood re-building and community re-building. Not one without the other.
This is where I want to admit that I started writing this blog post about nine months ago. And since then, the ending of this post needed to change in a pretty significant way – significant to me at the least: the Executive Director of the NNN, Karen Ainsley, after 13 years of very successfully running and growing the NNN, Inc. decided it was time to explore a new challenge. And that opened the door for me to consider doing exactly the same thing. So nine months after starting to write this piece (I’m not usually this tardy) – I chose to apply for the position, and was hired as the new Executive Director of the organization. So now it’s very much my passion and job to keep the focus on neighborhood AND community re-building. Not one without the other, and not one of us without each other.
Please come visit us over on 1007 Portage Ave at our offices, or visit our website: www.nearnorthwest.org
The Near Northwest Neighborhood, Inc. (NNN) is a community development corporation (CDC) that works in the near northwest neighborhood ofSouth Bend, Indiana. To ensure the lasting success of our community the NNN positively impacts housing, organizes neighbors, and promotes our neighborhood. To that end, we invest our financial and human resources in the lives of our neighbors.
After a full rehabilitation, our houses become available for sale for those who intend to occupy the home (our houses can not become rental properties) and income qualify according to federal guidelines. We think it’s exceptional housing, in a dynamic neighborhood, at a really affordable price. We currently have one home for sale, at 917 Lindsey Ave, and we anticipate two more houses becoming available in April 2015.
If you don’t think of us any other time of year, put October 25 on your calendar for our annual Arts Cafe!