Residents consider ways to promote diversity in Lincolnville

As the city of St. Augustine updates a redevelopment plan for Lincolnville, one part of the discussion has been finding ways to keep black residents in the neighborhood and attract more diversity.

 

Gentrification has changed the face of the neighborhood as new people have moved in and bought property.

The trend has left lingering concerns, some say.

“African-Americans who reside there are so afraid they’re going to be whisked out of the area … and lose their homes,” said Deltra Long, Planning and Zoning Board member, who grew up in Lincolnville.

An update of Lincolnville Community Redevelopment Area’s redevelopment plan is underway, and the city is finding out what Lincolnville residents want from their CRA. Some people have suggested adding more affordable housing initiatives as a way to help keep people in their homes.

CRA formed in 2013 after a study found “economic distress and physical deterioration” in the neighborhood, according to the city. The CRA uses a portion of property tax revenues to make improvements in the area based on the Lincolnville Redevelopment Plan. The plan recommends efforts like infrastructure upgrades, repairing deteriorating buildings, revitalizing roads and improving parks.

People have made it clear that a top priority is keeping African-American residents in the neighborhood and opening opportunities for more diversity, said Erin Minnigan, city historic preservation and community development planner.

A few city meetings are ahead as part of the plan update, and St. Paul AME Church hosted one of those meetings on Thursday night. The meeting focused on African-American heritage and finding ways to keep long-term residents in place. About 30 people attended — almost evenly divided between blacks and whites.

At the meeting, people floated the idea of using a community land trust to create affordable housing or creating a Community Development Corporation. CDCs are nonprofit groups used to revitalize areas and can be used to help develop affordable housing, according to community-wealth.org.

Carolyn Wright has seen Lincolnville change over the 50 years she’s lived there, she said. She is on the CRA’s steering committee and has hopes for the neighborhood moving forward.

“I love the diversity of the neighborhood, and I would like that to continue and for the story of Lincolnville to be at the forefront as well,” she said.

She said African-Americans she has spoken with are concerned about cost of living increases in the neighborhood. To help, the CRA has already been funding home repairs for people who can’t afford them. Wright said she’d like to see that program continue.

St. Paul AME pastor Ron Rawls said one of his top issues is slowing the pace of gentrification, citing a steep decline in the black population.

He said he hopes something can be developed, like a small loan program, that will help people keep their homes. He said he knows of people losing their homes in Lincolnville over small amounts in mortgage or other debt or tax issues, or people selling homes for a lower price than they should.

“People are being taken advantage of,” Rawls said.

Much of the conversation at Thursday’s meeting focused on the history of the neighborhood and social issues, like employment diversity and lack of blacks or African-Americans on local commissions or on the school board.

Kenneth McClain, who grew up in the area, said he would like to see the CRA do more to get old and new neighbors and people of different races talking to each other more. The character of the neighborhood has changed, he and others said.

Tourism has also begun changing the character of the neighborhood, McClain said.

“After a while you’re going to have trains running through every street down here,” he said. “What kind of community is that?”

The next city meetings for the redevelopment plan will focus on historic preservation and housing and community improvements, and then the city’s consultant will share recommendations in April. Officials want the redevelopment plan updated by September, Minnigan said.

Wright said she hopes more people will get involved.

“I would just like to see the community come out more to find out about the CRA … and to become more part of the process,” Wright said.

Lincolnville Redevelopment Plan

Upcoming focus groups:

n Historic Preservation: 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center.

n Housing and community improvements: 6 p.m. March 21 at the Willie Galimore Center, 399 Riberia St.

For information, go to citystaugcra.com.

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Brian Roach 9 months ago
Maybe we should give some credit to the intelligence of  "minorities" for recognizing the absurdity of investing hard earned dollars into this realty- hyped wanna-be- gentrified neighborhood jammed with aged, moldy and cramped old mousetraps with outdated utilities and infrastructure, darned few parking places and a steady stream of tourists staring at your windows.

 

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