BlockWork revitalized neighborhood, residents say

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 16, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — So many people turned out for the city’s first BlockWork project that organizers ran out of paint brushes.
About 80 volunteers showed up Oct. 22 to install walkways, landscape yards and, of course, paint houses and fences in the 200 and 300 blocks of South Shaver Street. Organizer Barbara Perry said she learned three lessons during the inaugural event: tackle only one block at a time next year, use walkie talkies and buy more supplies.
“In spite of the small things that went wrong, it was truly a wonderful event,” Perry, chairwoman of the Community Appearance Commission, told City Council Tuesday.
Residents said BlockWork transformed their neighborhood.
The Rev. Odessa McCoy, pastor of Gray’s Chapel Church of God, called the all-day event an “extreme makeover.” Sixteen church members volunteered.
“Because of you, our church is beautiful, as well as our neighborhood,” McCoy told city leaders and staff.
When church members arrived for services after the previous day’s cleanup, they stood in the yard and took in the improvements to the church and surrounding properties, saying “good job, good job, good job,” McCoy said.
With the motto “accountability happens one block at a time,” BlockWork encourages homeowners and residents to continue caring for their property long after the small army of volunteers departs.
“We recognize the importance of people being accountable for the way their house looks,” said Ken Weaver, president of Brooklyn-South Square, the neighborhood chosen for BlockWork this year. “Sometimes, people just need a little help.”
Mayor Susan Kluttz recognized Weaver and his family for their ongoing revitalization of the neighborhood. They recently launched an effort to slow traffic and encourage pedestrians in Brooklyn-South Square with lower speed limits and proposed four-way stop signs.
“With a few changes, we feel Brooklyn-South Square has the potential to be an important asset to downtown Salisbury,” Weaver said.
BlockWork cost the city nothing, thanks to funding from the Robertson and Woodson foundations.
Supplies were donated or provided at a discount, and homeowners chipped in as well. Rodney Queen donated $1,500 in plants and has promised to replace those that don’t survive the transition, Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell said.
City Planner Lynn Raker and Perry modeled BlockWork on Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Project. Raker worked on the project for a year, and Weaver said she went “above and beyond the call of duty.”
Other towns have shown an interest in learning more, Perry said.
Council members heard from grateful residents and enthusiastic volunteers. Livingstone College and the Junior Civitan Club from the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s Early College program provided many helping hands.
“We just had a good time,” said Jarrett D’Amato, an Early College student. “By the end of the day, everyone was so worn out. I slept good that night, had a great time and I’m looking forward to next year.”
Site managers included Garth Birdsey, Josh Canup, Jonathan Cerny, Dennis Kelly, Mimi Howard, Karl Sale and Ken Weaver. Kluttz read the names of every volunteer.
“This was a tremendous every for our city,” she said. “This was the most diverse group of people in every way that I have ever seen come together to do a project.
“In my opinion, this is the real answer to improving neighborhoods.”

In other action
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, Salisbury City Council:
• Agreed to changes in the plan for a temporary catheterization lab at Rowan Regional Medical Center.
Due to construction delays, the hospital’s interior renovations have been pushed back and the hospital now needs the temporary cath lab from January 2012 to August 2012.
The council agreed to allow the hospital to use a portion of right-of-way and sidewalk along Mocksville Avenue for the lab during renovations.
The lab will be a modular unit instead of a mobile unit and will extend about five feet onto the sidewalk, leaving about 24 feet available for two-way traffic on Mocksville Avenue.
The sidewalk will be accessible to pedestrians.
• Agreed to ban parking on the south side of the 400 and 500 blocks of East Lafayette Street. Weekly auctions draw crowds, and people park on both sides of the street, making it difficult for emergency vehicles to navigate.
The city sent letters to property owners and residents on both blocks. Salisbury Police will enforce the parking restriction during the auctions.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.