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3 neighborhoods look at implementing plans

(ran East, South editions)

With neighborhood plans approved last month for Fruitland Heights/Casler Heights and Mel-Tan Heights, residents can put three years of work behind them and get ready for implementation. Both areas had been targeted by city planners for up to $100,000 in improvements, so long as City Council gave its endorsement.

"The main thing is, we got it," said Fruitland Heights president Johnnie Mack. "We can't thank City Council enough."

Fruitland Heights' boundaries extend from 18th to 22nd Avenue S, between 16th and 19th streets. Casler Heights also runs from 18th to 22nd Avenue S but runs from 19th to 22nd Street.

An informal survey revealed that the average resident of has lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years, according to a city report. Residents valued tree-lined streets, a choice of housing options, and access to public transportation.

At the same time, residents expressed concern about 17 boarded properties and 45 vacant lots. The plan mentions several strategies to reduce the number of boarded properties and to encourage outside agencies such as non-profit corporations to build there.

Besides $25,000 in sidewalk construction and repair, the neighborhood will receive both functional and decorative lighting, new neighborhood identity signs, and traffic calming that includes 13 speed plateaus.

Regenia Wade, a neighborhood services coordinator for the city, said that working with residents over time produces more than just concrete improvements.

"They learn about what departments in the city do what, what the city takes care of and what the county takes care of, and who to call for this and who to call for that," Wade said. "They become more empowered. And it's fun seeing that happen."

Funding comes mostly from the $100,000 grant approved by the City Council and another $25,000 in capital improvement funds.

Nearly half of Mel-Tan Heights' $135,000 plan put sidewalks throughout the area from 15th to 18th Avenue S, between 28th and 31st streets. Only half of the area currently has sidewalks available. Other targeted improvements include traffic calming, $27,000 in decorative street lighting, and $3,000 for pamphlets and fliers on codes.

"This is one of the best projects that could ever happen here," Emmanuel Stewart said at a celebration Feb. 28 at the Enoch Davis Center. Stewart, 84, a former principal of Gibbs High School and retired School Board administrator, said that not many residents showed up for the meetings with Mel-Tan president Bessie Cannida and city representatives.

"But the people who do come come regularly and are dedicated and faithful."

The Mel-Tan Heights plan will be paid for out of the $100,000 approved by the city and $60,000 in capital improvement funds for sidewalks.

A retirement party honors Dorothy Gilliam, who stepped down last month after 22 years at the helm of the Thirteenth Street Heights Neighborhood Association, 5-8 p.m. at Wildwood Recreation Center, 1000 28th St. S. The public is invited.