by Sara Huffstetler, Communications Intern
At the intersection of E. Market & S. Arlington you will see an artistic board-up of a compass on what was once the First Merrit Bank. This mural represents more than a location logo but rather a new community identity and direction. This past weekend was the unveiling of what was once an eyesore filled with litter, tall grass, and weeds to a family friendly event thanks to this thing called the Better Block.
The Better Block Foundation is a nonprofit based out of Dallas, Texas whose mission is to “educate, equip, and empower communities and their leaders to reshape and reactivate built environments to promote the growth of healthy and vibrant neighborhoods”. KAB had the privilege of assisting in a Better Block project last May in North Hill by providing the waste receptacles and recruiting volunteers to transform the an unused lot into a temporary market place with the help of the Community Pride Trailer. So when plans were put into motion for the Middlebury Better Block event, KAB was more than willing to participate in the cause for a reimagined block so close to home!
Marissa Blewitt, the community organizer for a nonprofit based out of Akron called Neighborhood Network, oversaw the initiation of the Middlebury BB project and says that “without the help of KAB providing the Community Pride Trailer we wouldn’t have been able to clean up for the event”. Through a Neighborhood Network garden installation in 2015, Marissa got her first experience with KAB staff and the CPT. When it came to prep work, Marissa said, “KAB are the experts. In addition to providing the trailers, it’s nice to know we have an asset like KAB to serve in our community.”
From July 19-21st, the Community Pride Trailer was stationed at the vacant bank parking lot at the intersection of E. Market & S. Arlington. Each day, KAB worked alongside volunteers from S.W.A.G (students with a goal) and leaders in the community to prepare the space for the BB event. Within three days, volunteers trimmed back overgrown trees, cleaned out litter that had been hidden in the tall grass, tamed unsightly patches of weeds and grasses, and eradicated overgrown bushes that were both an eyesore and a hazard. Nearly 3,000 lbs. of litter and debris were removed from the site! The preparations for the BB event were complete thanks to the help of the Community Pride Trailer and all of the volunteers that came out for the cause!
Following the preparations for the event, it was turnaround time for the Middlebury BB event. The block was full of local pop-up shops including Bright Star Books, Compass Coffee, a farmers market, and a variety of retail venders. There was also live music, food trucks, and kid friendly activities that the community was able to enjoy together.
But the best part about the event is the lasting impact that was left once finished; Marissa said, “this event showcases what can be done by the community and the work motions towards permanency”. Thanks to all of the work put into the BB event, there have been a variety of changes made to the location that can be enjoyed from here on out such as: new crosswalks and bike-lanes, a jungle gym, the W.O.M.B’s garden, pallet benches to be distributed at bus stops, and street signs with the new Middlebury logo across them marking a new beginning.
(Photo provided by: Better Block)
Here at Keep Akron Beautiful, we are passionate about the community involvement and revitalization of our city. We are so happy to have been apart of the BB event, helping to sustain positive changes here in Akron, Ohio!