Thank you for passing on this information to me. Carol Vann On Thu, 1 Sep 2005 11:22:22 -0400 Nathan Hartley writes: From: KathieMessage 1 of 2 , Sep 3, 2005View SourceThank you for passing on this information to me. Carol VannOn Thu, 1 Sep 2005 11:22:22 -0400 "Nathan Hartley" <nathan@...> writes:From: Kathie Dunbar
Sent: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 11:34 PM
Subject: Fw: View to the FutureI'm sending a copy of the report from our View to the Future community dialogue to all SLCDA board members, neighborhood presidents, and community stakeholders who may be interested. If anyone has Dale Copedge's work email, could you please forward this to him? Also if you are interested and available, the follow up session is tomorrow: 6 p.m. @ Faith United Methodist on Waverly. I got Marco's to donate some pizza.Please forward this report to your neighborhood association members, friends and relatives in SW Lansing. You can also print and make copies for your next neighborhood meeting. The more input we get, the better we can serve the community.Monika, could you remind LaMia and others from New Mt. Calvary?Thanks.Kathie Dunbar, Executive Director
South Lansing Community Development Association
1900 Boston Blvd.
Lansing, MI 48910
Healthy Community Conversation
�View to the Future�
Preliminary Report of Findings
On July 28, 2005 , approximately 25 community members participated in a dialogue sponsored by South Lansing Community Development Association and Ingham County Health Department with support from Michigan Department of Community Health, Faith United Methodist, Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council, and local neighborhood associations. This report summarizes the process of the dialogue, the discussion points made during the Open Dialogue portion of the session, and the findings that were generated by this Focus Question:
�What do we need to do to make Southwest Lansing
a healthy, vibrant, and thriving part of the Lansing Community?�
The actions and strategies articulated in the findings will be validated and refined at a second meeting on September 1, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., at Faith Union Methodist Church .
The process began with the presentation of the following �trigger� information by Kathie Dunbar and LeRoy Harvey:
� �Major Themes� from the 2000 South Lansing Leadership Institute interviews, which were part of the Community Voices initiative.
� Findings from the �Revitalization Study of Three Southwest Lansing Intersections� conducted by Michigan State University students and the Economic Development Corporation of the City of Lansing .
� Information from the �Moving Our Community Toward Health� initiative.
Following these �trigger� presentations, participants engaged in an Open Dialogue about �things as they are� in Southwest Lansing and �things as we want them to be.�
Finally, participants were led through a structured exercise to answer the Focus Question. This began with a series of short-answer �summary� questions to help the group revisit the information they had heard thus far in the conversation. Each participant then brainstormed a personal list of good answers to the Focus Question. In small groups, participants shared the items on their lists, submitting four or five good answers as a group. These answers were clustered on the adhesive board, named, and further discussed in order to determine the preliminary recommendations of the group. The group designated several of these recommendations �catalytic,� meaning that if they were acted on, other recommendations would be automatically advanced.
The following people attended the dialogue; some participants' names may not have been recorded.
Bruce K. Jones
Darnell E. Oldham, Sr.
Paul A. Sarver, D.C.
Doak Bloss, facilitator
All interested parties are invited to attend the follow-up session to help refine the preliminary recommendations, regardless of whether they attend the initial dialogue. Please call Kathie (819-9714) or LeRoy (336-7840) to let us know if you plan to attend so that we can accurately plan for food.
Discussion points that emerged from the open dialogue are presented below. Please note that most discussion points are the product of more than one participant�s contribution, but do not necessarily reflect the feeling of the entire group.
Things as They are Now
- The lack of sidewalks is detrimental to the health of residents and creates a hazard for walkers and bikers, who are forced to use the roadway, where cars routinely travel at 45 miles per hour or faster. The City is aware of this problem, and recently did a study of all of the unconnected sidewalks in the city. Southwest Lansing was identified as an area to focus on.
- Several participants talked about the construction of �matchbox� apartment complexes and duplexes very close together in the area, with no green space or playgrounds. This leaves no place for children to play but in the street. The apartments are believed to be of very low quality, targeted to low-income renters; one person reported that people were moving into them before they were even finished. The City has a capacity to respond to substandard housing; however, code compliance officers often have difficulty doing so because builders and landlords manage to just barely meet minimum requirements, and there isn�t an adequate mechanism in state law to raise quality standards. One way for residents to begin working on this issue is to meet with Code Compliance to get a better understanding of the problem and ways to push for high standards.
- There is a strong sense that residents of Southwest Lansing contribute a great deal to the city in tax dollars, but that they are not getting their fair share of services and resources in return. Lack of sidewalks is a big concern; also the lack of sheltered bus stops, benches, and trash cans for long stretches on major streets. One participant said that an important step toward getting services, outreach, and block grant funding in this part of the community was to bring people together to realize what they could do: �You have to train a community to be vibrant and thriving.�
- From Aurelius Road to Waverly Road , there are few recreational and educational resources for kids. Previously, the Network Center in Wexford Elementary School offered programming for children that was highly valued by the neighborhood, but this is no longer in place.
- There is no central location for seniors or youth to come together. Several participants would like to see this remedied by the creation of a South Side Community Center . Options for creating such a center were raised. Would it be possible to use part of Hill Academy or add on to that building, since there is abundant space and parking there? Although Hill is largely vacant during the summer, it is packed with activity already during the school year. What is needed is a full-service building that could accommodate all kinds of activity for Southwest residents of all ages, especially seniors and youth. Various locations should be considered, including even the Eaton County side.
- The Waverly Holmes Plaza was once a very nice place, attractive and occupied by quality businesses. One occupant of the plaza described how difficult it is now to get a response from the landlord to infrastructure concerns. Although the rent has doubled, it is very difficult to get lights and other utilities repaired. The parking lot is also in disrepair. It would be great to see the Zoning Department establish minimum standards that would restore the plaza to its former condition, and maintain appropriate accountability. If this were done, it could easily attract the kind of businesses that there is a demand for, according to the revitalization study: bookstores, cafes, clothing stores, etc.
Things as We Want Them to Be
- One of the biggest challenges facing Southwest Lansing is the false perception that exists about the area and its neighborhoods. The media contributes to this greatly by characterizing every crime that occurs south of Mt. Hope as a � South Lansing crime.� In reality, most neighborhoods here safe and beautiful, with great houses and residents who care about keeping things that way. This was confirmed by several participants who lived in other parts of Lansing , and who were amazed when they came here and saw how nice the homes and neighborhoods really were. One of our goals should be to help overcome the negative image and thereby get people to want to move here. We could explore several strategies for doing this, like creating some kind of video that shows off the advantages of living here. We also need to work closely with the City and police to make sure it is clearly known that illegal drugs and crime are not welcome here.
- It�s clear that we have to become the solution ourselves, or at least the beginning of the solution. With the mainstream media (LSJ, Community News, etc.) often portraying a negative image, we need to help them tell the real story, sharing stories like those found in the Southside Community News. The Southside Community Showcase is another good example: in the first year, however, it was almost impossible to get anyone from outside the neighborhood to come to the event. We need a homegrown, creative vision of what we want to become. We need to keep bringing new people into the process, by doing things like rotating the location of annual events in different parks.
- We need to energize people, both in Southwest Lansing and outside of it, so that people will begin to think of this as a place to come to do interesting things. Now, we tend to go to other parts of town, like East Lansing for �moonlight movies.� One step is to wake people up to what is possible. Another is to work hard to bring in new attractions, like a local farmer�s market.
- We need to keep our neighborhood school at Wainwright, and help it succeed. We also need to create other neighborhood schools in the area. School issues are something that residents can get excited about and mobilize around, especially if we can find ways to bring neighborhood activity into the school buildings.
- We need to advocate for an increase in the City�s home rehab program.
In the structured exercise to answer the Focus Question��What do we need to do to make Southwest Lansing a healthy, vibrant, and thriving part of the Lansing Community?��the participants generated nine clusters of answers, which were used to formulate the ten preliminary recommendations below. Four of the nine recommendations were seen as catalytic, meaning that, if they were accomplished, they would automatically help accomplish many of the other recommendations as well. The catalytic recommendations are listed first. No other attempt was made to prioritize the recommendations.
The four catalytic recommendations focused on:
- A Vision for Action
- Involvement: Everyone Counts!
- Positive Public Relations
- Building Owner Responsibility
The other five recommendations concerned:
- Political Responsibility
- Health and Safety Infrastructure
- Economic Development
- Community Center
Please note that these recommendations are in DRAFT form. They will be revised and validated at the Southwest View to the Future follow-up meeting on September 1, 2005 .
- A VISION FOR ACTION -- Using the recent economic study as a platform, create a strategic comprehensive master plan for Southwest Lansing based on what the people who live here want to see happen.
The revitalization study and other information compiled by MSU students on Southwest Lansing have great potential to call attention to the many current and prospective assets of the area. This information should be used to get more and more residents engaged in creating a vision for what they want the Southwest to look like in the next five to ten years. Once that vision has been articulated, it should be framed as a comprehensive master plan to guide organized work by the community. Some steps that might be included in this plan have already been suggested:
- Make information and findings from this dialogue process available to other residents, and encourage them to give their input into a Vision for Southwest Lansing . See Recommendation 2.
- Find out what has worked in other communities, and other parts of town.
- Develop strong partnerships with departments and organizations who can help achieve the goals articulated by residents. For example, work more closely with the Zoning Department to learn how higher standards for maintaining commercial and residential properties can be established and enforced.
- Demonstrate to potential business partners that the residents are organized and committed to helping them succeed here.
- Seek grants and other resources that will create incentives for smart and stable economic development, and home rehab and maintenance.
- Celebrate and duplicate our successes both internally and externally; encourage a creative sharing of ideas.
- INVOLVEMENT: EVERYONE COUNTS! � Create a groundswell of support within Southwest Lansing for seeing our own vision realized.
While it is clear that achieving a new vision for Southwest Lansing will require partnerships with a number of entities outside the area, including elected officials and businesses that would consider locating here, it is critical that we begin by involving our own community in the work. While we know that a large part of the inaccurate perception of the Southwest comes from outside media portrayals, we also need to be diligent in our �internal public relations.� The area is home to many dedicated, talented people who care about their homes, and who have deep family roots in this part of the city. Efforts to increase involvement should be built around the strategy of letting the local residents know how much they are valued and appreciated for maintaining the quality of life in Southwest Lansing . Everyone should know that his or her viewpoint counts as we move forward.
Some ideas and guidelines that were suggested about ways to achieve this goal:
- Continue to pull information out of the residents about their ideas for maintaining and improving the community, perhaps through surveys or conversations. Small material incentives could also be considered as a way to get people initially involved in talking about what they want. Grant money to support this could also be sought.
- As new information and new participants get involved, strive always to maintain a unified vision�one that keeps everyone at the table.
- Create from the vision and master plan some clear, concise messages about what can be done to maintain or improve our community, and how people can participate.
- Consistently remind people that change takes time; what is important is keeping an eye on our long-term goals, and not being discouraged by setbacks or delays along the way.
- POSITIVE PUBLIC RELATIONS � Forge a compelling new image for Southwest Lansing in the Greater Lansing area.
Despite frequent portrayals of South Lansing in the media as an area with a high incidence of crime and substandard housing, there are many areas in Southwest Lansing that are well-maintained, safe, and populated by dedicated, diverse residents who want to keep it a great place to live. To build on that solid foundation and to prevent the negative image from becoming a reality in strong neighborhoods, residents of Southwest Lansing need to find ways to illuminate the resources and assets to the rest of the city. Events like the Southside Community Showcase are helpful in this regard, but reversing the negative image will require more than just positive events. Residents need to think in an organized, strategic way about how they can promote the Southwest through imagery, language, and success stories.
Southwest Lansing should look for in-kind or financial assistance through grants to promote the advantages of living and establishing small businesses here. This could take the form of a promotional video, a media campaign similar to the one produced by the town of Leslie , or working with media outlets to tell the stories of the area�s homes and long-term residents.
- BUILDING OWNER RESPONSIBILITY � Organize a positive, community-driven effort to maintain the aesthetics of commercial and residential properties.
Some landlords of both commercial and residential buildings in Southwest Lansing have not properly maintained them, which in turn impedes efforts to attract new small businesses within close range of the area�s neighborhoods. This problem needs to be framed as a positive opportunity to make Southwest Lansing more vibrant and appealing. Residents should be empowered to raise the issue of property maintenance when it occurs, think creatively about ways to improve business facades, and work with the Zoning Department to bring about enforcement of a higher standard of code compliance. This will most likely involve residents developing a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by the City in trying to ensure that property is kept up. Greater understanding and communication about these issues, however, will enable Southwest Lansing to shine a brighter light on the issue, and engage important new partners in the effort to improve the area�s look and resources.
Other (Non-catalytic) Recommendations
- POLITICAL RESPONSIBILITY � Ensure that the concerns of Southwest Lansing are addressed by local elected officials and policy makers.
One result of all four of the catalytic recommendations should be that more attention is paid to the Southwest in decision-making by the Mayor�s Office and City Council. Another myth about this part of town is that the people who live in the area don�t vote, and therefore don�t care about the city. In fact, residents of Southwest Lansing do vote and do care, and evidence of this should be brought to light. Individual residents should regularly be provided information on the issues currently under consideration by elected officials, and given the tools to community to their representatives on City Council. Local leaders should strive to maintain strong, positive relationships with City Council members, and engage them in the campaign to improve Southwest Lansing �s status as a valued part of the city. Above all, residents of the area must continue to make their voice heard through the ballot box.
- RE-INVESTMENT � Ensure that Southwest Lansing gets its fair share of benefit from tax dollars.
There is a strong perception on in Southwest Lansing that the amount of services and resources it enjoys from the city is not equal to the amount of tax revenue generated by the area�s homeowners. Information on this should be compiled and organized as part of the campaign to achieve Southwest Lansing �s Vision for Action. A case should be made to target tax dollars to programs and resources valued by the local residents, such as loans for home improvement for seniors living on a fixed income, and improvements in the environmental infrastructure.
- HEALTH AND SAFETY INFRASTRUCTURE � Increase the number of sidewalks, bus shelters, and other basic infrastructure as a means of protecting the health and safety of Southwest Lansing residents.
The absence of sidewalks, bus shelters, and playgrounds in parts of Southwest Lansing poses a health hazard to pedestrians, children, and bikers. The health risk should be articulated as an argument for infrastructure improvements to City and county officials. This should be a concrete component of the Vision for Action.
- ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT � Create incentives, partnerships, and communication tools to attract new small businesses to Southwest Lansing .
Increasing the number of locally owned businesses is one way to keep local dollars in our community. Data recently collected in the revitalization study shows that there is an unmet demand in Southwest Lansing for quality affordable businesses such as restaurants, cafes, and clothing stores. In order to attract new businesses to locate here, it will be necessary to assure the improvement and upkeep of business properties, create economic incentives for the business owners, and demonstrate that the residents of Southwest Lansing are supportive and involved in maintaining their community. This should be a long-term objective of the Vision for Action.
- COMMUNITY CENTER � Continue to work toward establishment of a full-service hub for community activity on the Southside.
Residents of South Lansing have long worked for the establishment of a community center that will meet the needs of the area�s many seniors and youth. Such a facility would be of great benefit to Southwest Lansing residents� efforts to make the area more attractive and vital. The ideal center would provide abundant programming for people of all ages, educational workshops, recreational facilities, and serve as a convenient meeting place for groups seeking to ensure the strength and livability of Southwest neighborhoods.