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Neighborhood renovations are key to future

There is a quiet movement going on in St. Petersburg which may be more important to our future than downtown redevelopment. Neighborhoods are beginning to be reclaimed and renovated across the city. Although it is not a ground swell, there are encouraging signs. The renovation of the Old Northeast section of town has been done a house at a time during the last 15 years. It is not surprising that the largest concentration of large older homes would be redone first. The movement has spread in the last few years to Crescent Lake, old Southeast, Meadowlawn, Snell Isle, the Pink Streets, Kenwood and others.

The city government is trying to encourage these efforts. City planners are working with neighborhood associations to coordinate the city's efforts with those of the neighborhoods. The city government will do a series of street and landscape improvements, park upgrades and neighborhood signs. The city has organized with local banks a low-interest loan program for housing renovation. Call 893-7381 for information.

Just as in downtown, the job is far too big for city government to handle alone. The city can serve as the impetus to encourage neighborhood improvements. City Council member Leslie Curran is very actively organizing neighborhoods in her district. Leslie is the city's best spark plug.

Curran encourages neighborhood associations to deal with problems in their neighborhood in a positive manner. The result is that the neighborhood associations that she helped organize are focusing their energy on solving problems and finding solutions. Curran told me of a gentleman who led the effort to improve the neighborhood park. When he finished, it looked so much better that it encouraged people who lived around the park to start renovating their homes.

The Kenwood Neighborhood Association has formed a non-profit corporation to organize the renovation of dozens of houses in the area. The city will provide seed money and the neighborhood will provide huge amounts of volunteer labor. Curran thinks this will serve as a model for other neighborhoods.

The important thing is to create sufficient momentum to encourage those who can to improve their houses. My new neighborhood is the Old Southeast. It is a collection of homes mostly built in the 1920s. Our house is one of four on the street that is being renovated. The project is so big that it takes the encouraging sound of hammers and saws at other homes on the street to keep us going. Every time another person starts renovation, it causes someone else to consider it.

Improving our city is largely up to us. We can use neighborhood associations as a means to organize neighborhood cleanups, to renovate housing, to improve parks, to inform each other of services that are available and to inspire neighbors to paint, to plant and to clean.

Excuse me, I have to get back to painting the living room window.

Karl Nurse is the president of a local printing company and a community activist. My View columnists, invited to contribute for a year on a regular basis, write their own views on subjects they choose, which are not necessarily the opinions of this newspaper.