Yesterday, the City Council convened a study session to review previous community engagement meetings' data, introduce additional information for the Greater Opportunity Zone urban core area (which Clokey Park's census tract is included), discussion of possible city-wide and neighborhood specific services and strategies, discussion of measuring successful revitalization, and set next steps, goals and objectives. Nearly 60 individuals from various groups, organizations, and the general public attended. No votes are taken in study sessions; they serve to inform the council and the council then gives direction to the City Manager to direct city employees and staff to develop policy, ordinances, or plans of action for the council at a business meeting.
Clokey Park was mentioned often in the study session. Among the highlighted data points:
- Property equal assessed value (e.a.v) has declined $14,131 per acre over the last 10 years
- Property occupied by the property owner is 31% (excluding commercial property, probably 2/3rds of homes are rented)
-16% of land in Clokey park is either unproductive or vacant.
-Existing structures were reviewed for overgrown landscaping, roof damage, door/window damage, and siding damage. Divided by the number of structures, and number of observed evidence,, Clokey Park score was .83.
Among the identified neighborhoods in the Greater Opportunity Zone urban core, Clokey Park ranked #2 in most distressed 10-year EAV score, and #5 in most distressed blight score.
Gathering this data together, it is easy to recognize why participation in our neighborhood association is minimal from the residents. It is very likely that many of our neighbors are living in residences with ongoing structural issues and are just "renting" here, and likely high poverty (since being designated by the Federal government as an "opportunity zone" denotes a high percentage of residents living in poverty). Our neighborhood is harvesting its latest crop of systemic disinvestment, probably accelerated by the 2008 housing mortgage crisis that sent property values plummeting, and cannot easily recover from the plunge without substantial property reinvestment.
But you have to have something other than "traditional" funding and loans to do $30,000 of updates and repairs on a home with a fair market value of $28,000. The math (short of having cash-on-hand) simply doesn't work on such a project.
Frankly, Clokey Park needs to have more buy-in to live in as a resident and neighbor. It needs to be a neighborhood with a median home value near the Decatur median of $64, 700. It needs more median household incomes above the poverty line.
It will need sustained partnerships, investment strategies, and an incremental climb in property value to tip the scale from undesirable to desirable, even destination status. And it will take some time, some effort, and commitment.
Residents of Clokey Park, our situation is not going unnoticed by our elected city officials or employees. I am encouraged, even a little optimistic, that the necessary tools, strategies, and partnerships will be developed and utilized to officially turnaround and restart our neighborhood towards wellness and vitality. But much like a diet and exercise routine, the results will not be seen immediately, and will take some time to be fully implemented.
Will you do what is necessary to get more buy-in to live in?
Participate in our adopt-a-street clean up?
Attend our informational meetings? (we plan to invite City Manager Scott Wrighton to join us soon)
Join our NextDoor group, and subscribe to the Neighbor?
Because neighbors in partnership for a better neighborhood make the difference.