Building Blocks effort aims to rehab Fitchburg properties

By Anna Burgess,

Updated:   03/19/2016 07:03:36 AM EDT

FITCHBURG -- NewVue Communities is inviting residents in the North of Main Street area of the city to sign up for free infrastructure improvements, to help create a positive "visual impact" on the neighborhood.

NewVue Communities' new program, Building Blocks, is a collaboration with ReImagine North of Main, Fitchburg State University, Crossroads Community Church and the city. The program encourages residents to apply for assistance with exterior housing and yard repairs, and includes funding for the repairs as well as skilled workers to do the necessary work on May 14.

The program was inspired by an annual neighborhood cleanup started several years ago by Crossroads Community Church.

According to NewVue Communities Director of Community Organizing Meredith Geraghty, the cleanup has been so successful that the needs of the neighborhood have changed.

"In the past, their cleanup has been getting trash out of the road and doing simple landscaping, but now the neighborhood is pretty clean," Geraghty said. "Now, one of the biggest visual issues is infrastructure problems, their porch has issues or their stairs are crumbling. We wanted to take advantage of the volunteers and meet the needs of the community right now."

NewVue works closely with ReImagine North of Main on a number of projects, and thought Building Blocks would be a good project to combine their focus on housing with the ReImagine North of Main focus on community engagement and neighborhood upkeep.

Geraghty said each of the five Building Blocks partners has committed $10,000 to the Building Blocks program, except for Crossroads Community Church, which is providing skilled labor.

NewVue Communities will spend the next two weeks collecting applications from residents interested in the program, and plans to finalize its project list by March 31. So far, they've had about 20 people express interest in getting work done.

Requests have been received to repair crumbling steps and front porches, landscape yards, and build or paint fences, Geraghty said.

After May 14, she said, "the goal is to continue working in the neighborhood."

"It might be that we don't get all the projects done on May 14," she said, "but once we have that knowledge of what residents need, we want to put them in touch with programs that could maybe help."

"This is kind of an experiment, it's our first year doing it, so I think we have to assess the process and see how it works before we talk about next year," she said. "But we are committed to continuing working to make the neighborhood a place to live, work and invest, and committed to improving the housing stock in the neighborhood."

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