A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action

Community Revitalization – Weed and Seed – Harrisburg, PA

Last Revised: Mar 18, 2011 - Initial Posting: Mar 27, 2007
Purpose

The private, non-profit Community Action Commission provides leadership for a Community Revitalization Project to initiate comprehensive redevelopment services for residents of the South Allison Hill neighborhood.

Description

The Community Action Commission (CAC) coordinates a range of Neighborhood Revitalization activities as part of a collaborative effort to improve the South Allison Hill neighborhood in Harrisburg, which is the city’s most ethnically diverse and second poorest neighborhood.  Involvement in this initiative occurred along with a deliberate decision by CAC to focus as an agency on efforts that (a) would make substantial, long-lasting differences for low-income community residents and (b) other groups would not be in a position to institute.  As a result, the agency redirected its priorities, which included discontinuing the provision of emergency services since other agencies and faith-based organizations would ensure that such needs would still be addressed.

In 1993, CAC relocated its operations to South Allison Hill.  In 1997, the agency joined in partnership with the City of Harrisburg to develop a long-range plan for revitalization of the surrounding area.  This started with a series of neighborhood meetings were held over the course of approximately two years to develop information on community assets and deficits.  Subsequently, CAC raised funds to hire the Urban Research and Development Corporation to create a 10-year overall neighborhood plan - Year 10 Goals and Objectives - comprised of seven indicators shown below.  Planning is occurring for an additional five years through a $25,000 Planning Grant that was received from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

  • Goal 1: Improve housing conditions to increase the quality of life for individual residents and the economic well-being of the overall neighborhood
  • Goal II: Provide open space and recreational opportunities
  • Goal III: Provide more and better quality retail shopping and services
  • Goal IV: Increase business, job and vocational training to properly utilize vacant land and buildings, as well as train the local labor force and keep it in the community
  • Goal V: Improve vehicular and pedestrian circulation, parking and public transit services
  • Goal VI: Make the neighborhood safer and more attractive and strengthen community participation and pride
  • Goal VII: Counter negative perceptions about the neighborhood

In 1998, the South Allison Hill Revitalization Project received designation as a Comprehensive Service Plan (CSP) Tax Credit Program by the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development that included a $100,000 annual contribution toward the project by M & T Bank (see page 2 of link).  Accordingly, this contribution qualifies for a 70 percent state tax credit as well as a federal tax deduction.  These funds are directed toward beautification projects and neighborhood planning.

In 2002, the project received Pennsylvania Weed and Seed funding to help intensify efforts related to law enforcement, anti-blight, social and other community development services.  The Pennsylvania Weed and Seed effort helps communities dedicate police efforts to eradicating crime and “seeding” the neighborhood with positive activities such as creating a homeowners/residents association.  State funding has been greatly reduced for this program as of 2009.  Interested communities can take a look at the federally funded Weed and Seed Program.

In 2008, CAC received an Elm Street planning grant to work towards a new revitalization plan for the neighborhood.  The new Neighborhood Revitalization Plan was adopted in 2009 and is for six years.  The new plan included goals from the ten-year plan but also stressed sustainability, resident empowerment and objectives that did not get met in the first plan such as recreation, green technology, land use, and job development.

CAC works closely with neighborhood residents, homeowners, and business owners in ensuring the delivery of city services, demolishing "eyesores," mapping assets, restoring vacant lots to usable and attractive properties, pursuing absentee landlords, and improving communications and interactions with police.  Project activities are coordinated through the efforts of a Neighborhood Revitalization Coordinator and a Program Assistant.  The neighborhood is designated a PA Weed and Seed Community.  Although CAC did coordinate these efforts the first 4 years, the current program is run by the YWCA of Harrisburg.  The strength of the PA Weed and Seed program is the coordination of community policing with local residents and organizations.  The Weed and Seed Team is made up of residents, law enforcement and organizations.

The neighborhood has two strong community groups:

  • The South Allison Hill Homeowner/Residents’ Association meets monthly. Its mission is improve the quality of life in SAH by working collaboratively with and for members.  This will be accomplished through the following three activities:
    • Education – Gathering, organizing and sharing resources to meet the needs of members.
    • Advocacy – Supporting members by connecting them with resources and being an organized voice to address needs and issues.
    • Implementation – Ensuring that needs are met through specific actions and goals.
  • The Business Association of South Allison Hill meets monthly.  Its mission is to support and provide education and resources to local businesses as well as deal with issues and problems of the neighborhood.

The first South Allison Hill economic development project that was completed involved the redevelopment of the corner of S. 13th and Derry Streets into Mt. Pleasant Plaza.  The Plaza, a partnership between CAC and Mr. and Mrs. In Suk Pak, provides a new laundromat, tax preparation services, an ice cream shop, and a soon-to-be-announced beauty parlor.  The $1.8 million project used $250,000 in City CDBG funds, $431,000 in state DCED funds, and a $1,133,000 loan to Mr. Pak by M&T Bank.

CAC also acquired through donation the building that was previously a branch bank on the opposite corner from Mt. Pleasant Plaza.  An $800,000 renovation effort by PNC Bank, plus an additional $1.3 million to create class A office space was invested.  The building attracted PNC Bank to the neighborhood to reestablish a full-service bank for the community.  A one-stop employment center is located on the third floor of the bank building and individual suites are being leased on the second floor.

In 2005, a $325,000 New Communities – Elm Street Program grant was awarded to support neighborhood beautification through residential façade improvements, new sidewalks, and demolition of blighted properties.  The neighborhood partners with local colleges for specific projects, student interns and volunteers for cleanups.

Improved housing conditions, removal of blighted properties, and neighborhood beautification efforts have helped improve the quality of life in South Allison Hill.  The Tri-County Housing Development Corporation has worked on housing rehabilitation and expansion of affordable homeownership and rental housing.  In 2009, building began for 25 single family, owner-occupied homes.  As of March, 2010 five homes have been built including one Zero-energy home.

Building community pride and spirit is a key aspect of the South Allison Hill Revitalization Project.  Activities are organized to bring residents, business owners and agency representatives together such as an annual Multicultural Festival, a Community Mural Kick-Off Event, and a series of neighborhood cleanup days (i.e. 4-6 per year).  National Night Out Night serves as an event to foster interaction among citizens, law enforcement agencies, civic groups, businesses, neighborhood organizations and local officials.

Virtual CAP Resource Information

Resources to assist with an asset-based community development approach to community engagement are available through:

Discovering Community Power: A Guide to Mobilizing Local Assets and Your Organization's Capacity - W.K. Kellogg Foundation       Asset-Based Community Development Institute       NeighborWorks Community Development Evaluation Framework

Outcomes

Examples of outcomes for 2008-2010 include:

  • Ten blighted properties were demolished.
  • Twenty-four façade improvement projects completed.
  • Neighborhood clean ups are organized by Block Captains, Volunteers and the Weed and Seed Program.
  • Beautification efforts included a community garden, tree wells over a six-block area and two new murals.
  • Five single family homes (owner-occupied) were built.
  • A business seminar series was held in the neighborhood. This series was conducted by the Capital Area Chamber of Commerce.
  • Residents were successful in achieving regular bulk trash pickup through the city.
  • A health center has acquired property in our neighborhood and has drawn up plans to centralize their services in SAH bringing better health services and job opportunities.
   Facade Improvement - Before              Facade Improvement - After

 

Examples of outcomes for 2007-2008 include:

  • Eight blighted properties were demolished.
  • Twenty-five façade improvement projects completed.
  • A bi-monthly community newsletter is produced in both English and Spanish
  • Attendance increased in Homeowner/Residents’ Association by 45%
  • Twelve neighborhood clean ups took place removing more than 150 tons of trash and bulk items.
  • Through Keep PA Beautiful and Elm Street, student interns worked with youth to improve the Heart of the Community Lot (a public park).
  • Through Elm Street funding, solar-powered motion sensor security lights were given to residents and put in areas needing more light.
  • Three portable security cameras were purchased by the Weed and Seed program and used to capture illegal dumping in the neighborhood.
  • A new development consisting of 25 single-family units which will be sold for owner-occupancy is in the final stages of planning.
  • A partnership with HACC (Harrisburg Area Community College) allowed all properties to be entered into a GIS Map.
  • Three new businesses opened in the neighborhood bringing the total number of businesses to 100.
  • Forty-eight apartments for low and moderate-income families were built or completely renovated.
  • 250 residents received employment training or entrepreneurial development.
Contact

Susan Mulford, Neighborhood Plan/Elm Street Manager
717.232.9757 ext. 121