clark-fulton residents fight blight by beautifying old gas station

Kate Dupuis moved from Bay Village to a condemned Queen Anne Victorian in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood of Cleveland nearly 20 years ago. Now she’s fighting to save her adopted community from the ravages of neglect, disinvestment and the foreclosure crisis.

The near-west side neighborhood has been hard hit by the economic downturn and is littered with boarded-up, vacant properties. Yet Dupuis insists that it’s worth salvaging — and it can happen if residents are organized, she adds.

“Our agenda is to bring some attention to a long-neglected neighborhood that has the viability to be saved,” says Dupuis, a stained glass artist who chairs the neighborhood’s volunteer-led Housing Committee. “Our housing stock is wonderful and extremely affordable, and we have committed, solid residents. But the neighborhood’s at a tipping point — we need to address our urban blight.”

Towards that end, Dupuis and other residents have organized a project to fix up an historic, vacant gas station at W. 44th and Storer Ave. in the heart of the neighborhood this Saturday. A team of volunteers will cover the long-neglected building with plywood, repaint it, install a pathway of concrete pavers, and add landscaping that transforms the empty property into a park-like setting.

The project is part of a larger effort by the Housing Committee to involve residents in improvement projects while pressing the city for additional resources. “We have properties in our community that have been vacant for years, and along with that comes the attendant crime,” says Dupuis. “We’re pushing the city to remedy the worst of the worst by tearing down these houses.”

Dupuis stresses that the Housing Committee is also helping to preserve the neighborhood’s building stock. This Saturday’s effort is one such project. The event is co-sponsored by Cleveland Housing Court and the Stockyard, Clark-Fulton and Brooklyn Centre Community Development Corporation.

Although Dupuis says there isn’t much new investment taking place on Storer Ave, she notices subtle, positive changes in the neighborhood. “We’re giving people in the community hope because we’re taking action and doing things.”

Fresh Water Cleveland. 8/11/11

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