Two different factions are working in the East End right now with roughly the same goals for the neighborhood.
One falls under the umbrella of city government and is an initiative spearheaded by Mayor Brad Staton. Five groups, consisting of city officials and residents, began meeting at the start of the year. Each group is focused on a different piece of revitalization—blight/affordable housing; infrastructure; beautification/special projects; economic development; and public safety.
The other group is led by the Audubon Kids Zone. As a part of AKZ’s Love Your Neighborhood program, residents have determined three areas they want to focus on, including livability; youth and lifelong learning; and neighboring and community.
Both factions want to revitalize the neighborhood and between them, a sort of cross pollination exists, said Tammy Sutton, executive director of AKZ. Many participating in one are also a part of the other.
She said there’s no competition, and the Love Your Neighborhood program welcomes any help the city can provide, especially with technical and expensive infrastructure solutions that government is equipped to handle.
But she did say that if the city wants to succeed on its end, attention to building relationships first and then trust must occur. Sutton said she’s been doing that at AKZ during her seven-year stint as executive director.
AKZ’s Love Your Neighborhood grew out Nu-Works, a program that was started by State. Sen. Robby Mills.
From July 2021 to June 2022, a neighborhood coordinator hired by Nu-Works, Mioshi Holloway, went door-to-door to collect information from residents about what they wanted to occur in the neighborhood. In January this year, Nu-Works’ operations were transferred to AKZ, Sutton said.
A new neighborhood coordinator, Nivea Carter, is now beginning to implement some of the ideas residents suggested. One in process, the Neighborhood Action Projects, awards $250-$1,000 to community members for projects they plan to pursue. Applications were due June 1.
AKZ also runs a kids and families program in which the organization works with children from birth through college. Sutton said there are 72 children currently in the program. The organization also assists parents with skills to better support their children through school.
Sutton expects a long road till noticeable, neighborhood-wide gains are felt, possibly when the children AKZ is working with now have gone through college and come back to buy homes, not rent them.
“It’s a long-term project,” she said, adding that AKZ is in it for the long haul. “We believe in what we do.”