Grove Street Revitalization Task Force hopes to improve community, encourage business
Inside the crowded storefront of the Facts 4 Life teen center on Dec. 9 wreaths hung from the plate glass window and cookies invited from a table next to homemade crafts. The event was a Christmas bazaar sponsored by the Grove Street Revitalization Task Force ‘— a stepping-out for a business district trying to reverse years of decline.
The stretch of Grove Street in question extends from Glenwood Avenue to Portland Street, about four city blocks. The single story brick buildings date back to the beginning of the neighborhood more than 60 years ago and used to house florists, doctors and cafes. Now several of them are empty and the task force formed a year ago as a subcommittee of the Glenwood Neighborhood Association to find a way to lure businesses back to the area.
Business owner April McLean has operated Head to Toe Hair Clip and Nail Tips Styling Studio on Grove Street for seven years. She also owns the small store-front next door that houses the teen center and is behind efforts to bring commerce back to the neglected city block.
‘“We’re hoping to get more specialty shops, restaurants, a coffee shop,’” she said. ‘“These are the things that we think will bring people back here.’”
Grove Street CafÃ©, a neighborhood institution, closed last year. But there are signs that certain kinds of businesses are looking to relocate on the blocks, specifically churches and religious organizations.
‘“The unique thing about Grove Street is that there are three churches and a mosque,’” said Rev. Sarah Smith, the pastor at the Glenwood United Methodist Church. ‘“We’ve all been working in our own way to connect with folks around here.’”
Glenwood United Methodist Church is the largest of these institutions and sits at the corner of Florida Street and Glenwood Avenue It is directly across from the Nation of Islam Mosque, which bustles with traffic on the weekends. Two smaller churches occupy stores next to the teen center.
In August the task force hosted a street party with step teams, music and food. The event drew large crowds from the neighborhood. The Glenwood United Methodist Church hosts an ongoing free Saturday pancake breakfast to achieve a similar feeling of neighborhood unity.
The religious organizations also fight crime and drugs, and they say the neighborhood has improved on those fronts in the last few years. Groups like Facts 4 Life are dedicated to keeping nearby teens off the streets and off drugs.
‘“Back here used to be a little rough,’” McLean said. ‘“Now we have no more people hanging out on the streets.’”
Now that crime has decreased for local business owners, the time is right for a new influx of shops and restaurants, Smith said. The neighborhood would benefit mostly with convenience, McLean said, but also with increased stability and pride.
‘“I think if we can get more businesses back here, the neighborhood would improve,’” she said. ‘“People won’t have to go outside the neighborhood; there would be safer places for kids. It would just be so much more self-contained.’”
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