By Cathriona Fey
BAPA Community Outreach & Improvement
On the last Saturday of February volunteers representing various businesses, organizations and residents from the Beverly/Morgan Park community gathered to continue planning efforts for the Western Avenue Revitalization Project. This community-led initiative is part of National Main Street Center’s UrbanMain program.
UrbanMain offers technical assistance and support for community-driven economic development plans in under-resourced older and historic neighborhood commercial districts in order to restore economic vitality and promote quality of life. Led locally by the Morgan Park Beverly Hills Business Association (MPBHBA), the Western Avenue Revitalization Project team completed their second of two workshops to create a detailed workplan and identify projects, priorities, budgets and timelines to move planning efforts forward.
February’s workshop was a follow-up to last October’s initial meeting in which survey results from over 900 respondents were presented and the need for a safer, more family-friendly, and economically diverse Western Avenue was identified. With a transformation strategy in place, the project team used this workshop to continue to build towards this new vision for Beverly/Morgan Park’s main commercial district. Led by Dionne Baux, Director with UrbanMain, the project volunteers collaborated to develop a path forward.
During the workshop, volunteers split into four planning groups to identify specific action steps needed to advance the project. Using UrbanMain’s Four Points Framework as a guide, the project team identified preliminary action steps in the following areas: Economic Vitality, Design, Promotion and Organization. Some of the specific projects that were recommended to support the revitalization of Western Avenue include the identification of high priority commercial vacancies; administration of a survey specifically for Western Avenue business owners; appointment of business block captains; promotion of bikability and walkability throughout the community; installation of a public art mural in the corridor; and creation of resident feedback and input opportunities both online and at community events.
Throughout these next few months, the volunteer planning groups will continue to meet to implement initial projects, while overall efforts will be focused on developing partnerships, prioritizing specific phases of the revitalization project, and identifying funding sources to allow for the development of a more vibrant commercial corridor through the Beverly/Morgan Park community.
The volunteers who have been the driving force behind the Western Avenue Revitalization Project and whose energy and participation have kept the importance of enhancing our community’s main commercial district a priority are: Caroline Connors, Colleen Trnka, Katie Soso, Scott Smith, Grace Kuikman, Molly Sullivan, Margie O’Connell, Jan Rauen, Meg’n Barba , Marti Jatis, Anne Alt, Joan Each Rowan, Sonya Eldridge, Debra Gawrys, Tim Noonan, Willie Winters, Mike Carey, Cathriona Fey, Sal Campbell, Nate Hollister, Terri Haymaker and Andrew Linstadt.
The Western Avenue Revitalization Project is funded through an UrbanMain grant that was awarded to the Morgan Park Beverly Hills Business Association in 2019. If you are interested in volunteering or have additional questions regarding the Project, contact Caroline Connors, firstname.lastname@example.org.