By Lexie Kwiek firstname.lastname@example.org
The grassroots neighborhood revitalization program that completed 126 exterior home improvement projects in 2017 is back for a second year, and has already started engaging new stakeholders throughout the city of Fulton.
After a successful initial year of community building and property beautification, the Fulton Block Builders (FBB) wanted to find a way to share information about the Block Challenge program with more city residents, said FBB Administrative Director Linda Eagan. Participants from last year’s program suggested hosting an informational meeting, which Eagan and FBB volunteers facilitated on Jan. 17 at the River Vista Conference Center.
“We had seen with many nighttime meetings that life can often get in the way and they aren’t really well attended,” said Eagan. The FBB meeting proved to be an exception, with more than 80 individuals present to learn more about the Block Challenge program.
“We were not familiar with most of the people that attended,” said Eagan. “It really brought in some new interest.”
As part of the presentation, Eagan gave guests an overview of FBB and the Block Challenge in particular, which provides property owners with a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $1,000 for exterior home improvements. The unique feature of the program is homeowners must participate together in order to receive funding. At least 50 percent of the houses in a block or cluster must commit to completing exterior repairs in order to be eligible for the funding.
Eagan said while the Block Challenge’s first year was a success, there are still many people with questions about how the program works. One of the most frequently asked questions she receives is about program funding.
“People think we’re a government program, but we’re not,” said Eagan. She said FBB is a grassroots, neighborhood beautification program that relies on donations to operate.
One of the project’s biggest donors is the Shineman Foundation, which has offered FBB a second matching grant of up to $100,000 to support projects in 2018. The grant doubles any donations made by businesses or individuals, offering $2 for every $1 raised. In order to maximize the Shineman funding, FBB must raise at least $50,000 by the end of April, said Eagan.
“We’re at 85 percent of our goal,” said Eagan. “We’re out there every day actively recruiting both businesses and individuals to support the program.”
This active recruitment strategy also allows Eagan and fellow block builders to answer one of the other major questions people still ask, which is, “What types of repairs does the Block Challenge fund?”
“It’s all street appeal,” said Eagan, explaining the Block Challenge funds can only go toward exterior repairs and beautification efforts.
Eagan said popular projects in 2017 included landscaping, rebuilding front steps, and replacing sidewalks, windows and doors. While the list of potential projects is extensive, Eagan said there are a few items FBB does not fund.
“We don’t support the removal of green spaces,” said Eagan. “Green is good for a city.”
She said an example of a project that would not receive FBB support could be if someone owned a property with multiple residences and realized there was not enough off-street parking for all of their tenants. Eagan said FBB would not provide funds for the property owner to expand the driveway over their grass and lawn.
Along with preserving green space, FBB also looks to keep the original charm of Fulton houses intact.
“We look to preserve the architecture and character of properties in the city,” said Eagan. “We want to keep the architectural value of the homes.”
Eagan said an example of a project that would not receive support would be if a homeowner wanted to remove hand-carved knoll posts from their front entrance and replace them with two-by-four boards. She said FBB also looks to preserve original wooden siding rather than remove and replace it with vinyl.
“We would rather repair and repaint clapboard than take it down and replace it with vinyl siding,” said Eagan. “But we will support the upkeep of vinyl siding that is already on a house.”
To help with exterior painting, Eagan recommends homeowners take advantage of the Paint Fulton program. According to the FBB website, “Paint Fulton provides City of Fulton residents with a selection of historic color schemes to use for painting their homes.”
In 2018, ANYONE in the city can receive a $500 reimbursement if they utilize the Historical Colors.
“A person anywhere in the city can apply, whether they are part of the Block Challenge or not,” said Eagan. “Last year we had four people participate in using the historical colors. We would like to see that number grow.”
For more information on applying for Paint Fulton or Block Challenge funding, visit www.fultonblockbuilders.com.
Eagan reminds all property owners interested in the Block Challenge to complete their pre-application before the March 16 deadline. Once they have recruited at least half of the neighbors living on their block or in their cluster and submitted the initial application, representatives from FBB will meet with applicants to explain the fine details of the program and help create a strong application to be submitted before April 18.