With this column we offer food for thought. We want to start a conversation, and encourage people to find a way that we can protect historically black neighborhoods and grow them through inner city, nonprofit land conservancies that African Americans establish, contribute to, fundraise for, are actively involved in, and govern.
Over the years black residents – like others – have moved out of the inner city. Some have held on to family properties, leaving them to children or other relatives. Some who have stayed in family homes have been unable to consistently invest in home repairs. Some homes are lost for nonpayment of taxes, others are abandoned. We have all witnessed neighborhoods that are home to strong memories, yet today appear abandoned.
We have also witnessed “urban renewal” and different projects that reclaim, revitalize, and/or reinvent new uses for these properties and neighborhoods. Too often African Americans are not central to this process. It is others from outside the neighborhood who see value in these properties, who create future visions, and have access to capital and resources to either hold on to the properties until “the time is right;” to begin building; or to “flip.”
African American led inner-city land conservancies can be organized and operated in ways similar to conservancy efforts that are established to protect wildlife, rivers, mountain ranges, farmland, marshlands, animals, and vegetation.
The principles are the same. As a nonprofit the conservancy can offer land owners – including municipalities – with an option for transferring property ownership. Land and/or properties can be donated, and the conservancy can purchase properties or land. These can be landscaped, turned into parks, and/or developed. Some can be sold to generate revenue to purchase and protect other meaningful properties. Others can be retained – and maintained – as a long-term neighborhood investment in future growth and development.
There are individuals, families, churches, and stakeholders in our communities who could support a conservancy with cash donations and gifts of property for future use (whether to be sold or restored) in order to protect a given neighborhood.
This is an effort that can be diverse, including residents and property owners who are African American as well as those from other racial and ethnic backgrounds, and recent immigrants. Launching an inner-city land conservancy would bring people together to plan and take action. It can move us from lamenting the impact of others and the passage of time – and into motion.
This type of effort can bring people back to the inner-city in a meaningful way. It can increase the market value of surrounding properties. It can protect the historical value of the neighborhood. We look at this as an organized effort made up of people with expertise such as community development corporations, investors, property owners, financial institutions, city planners, foundations, government agencies, preservation groups, and the faith-based community.
For those who would like to pursue this idea further with us, please give a call.
We are “planting the seed.” Will you help it grow?
Copyright 2018 – Mel and Pearl Shaw www.saadandshaw.com.
First in a series of Come Grow With Us thought-provoking columns.
Image courtesy of 123RF.com.