Oswego Renaissance Association for Neighborhood Revitalization Receives $150k Grant

The Richard S. Shineman Foundation announced a $150,000 grant award to support Oswego neighborhood revitalization through the Oswego Renaissance Association (ORA).  The grant will support ORA’s neighborhood revitalization programs this coming summer, including a program called the "Renaissance Block Challenge Grant."

Renaissance Block Challenge Grants provide grants to clusters of homeowners in targeted neighborhoods, up to $1,000.00 per house with matching funds for exterior home improvements.  An exterior project would be a combination of up to $1000 from the ORA and the same amount or more, from the property owner. Homeowner’s projects from $100 to $2000.00 will be matched dollar for dollar. Homeowner’s projects that exceed $2000.00 will automatically qualify for the $1000.00 maximum grant.   A minimum of 5 and a maximum of 15 houses on the same street need to coordinate and apply together to be eligible for a Challenge Block Grant.  The ORA plans to invest over $100,000.00 into the 4 targeted neighborhoods this year alone.

“We've spent the last year doing extensive neighborhood outreach. There are multiple Resident Leaders throughout the city - just regular homeowners who are recruiting their neighbors to participate- we expect a lot of participation the first year.” said Paul Stewart, ORA Founder and Director, “Later in the summer we expect to implement a 2nd, additional program: Neighborhood Pride Grants. These target streetscapes, parks and playgrounds."

Last year, with funding from Novelis Oswego, the ORA worked with residents to complete several Neighborhood Pride Projects. These included the Bridge Street Tree Canopy project,  where 74 trees were planted along East and West Bridge Street by Oswego residents, Novelis employees and the DPW. Additional projects also included the restoration of the Franklin Square Playground and a large historic landmark in Montcalm Park.

 “This is our second grant to the Oswego Renaissance Association, and really a testament to our belief in the potential of this organization for the Oswego community.” said Lauren Pistell, Executive Director of the Shineman Foundation.  “Our first grant was used by ORA to commission neighborhood planning firm czb to perform a comprehensive study and assessment of housing in our City.  We couldn't be happier with the work done by ORA and czb.  ORA has built a dynamic, engaged network which has joined City officials with resident leaders and area businesses; they are ready to take this project into the next phase and we are delighted to support the Block Challenge Grants and Neighborhood Pride Projects. "

The approach used by the ORA is a 180 degree turn from traditional approaches to neighborhood revitalization, according to Stewart. “Our approach is a market-oriented approach that focuses on investing in what works, rather than trying to fix what isn't," he explained. "We build on strengths by targeting so-called 'neighborhoods in the middle'. These are neighborhood where there is enough strength to leverage and grow from, and which can be revitalized successfully at moderate cost. And from these initial target areas we can expand ever outwards over many years."

Stewart states that Oswego's neighborhoods have enormous potential. The goal is to position neighborhoods to grow stronger, year over year, and compete to maintain current residents and attract new ones. In doing so, the programs get neighbors to re-engage with each other, and have them work together and unlock the power of "crowdsourcing" to revitalize their neighborhoods. In parallel, they begin reweaving the social fabric of the neighborhood and unlocking pride and confidence to reinvest in their homes and neighborhoods.

In Jamestown, NY, a similar program has yielded measurable results. In 2011-2013, over 142 household participated in that city. About $115,000 in Block Challenge Grant funds were Awarded, but the combined resident investments plus matching funds yielded over $400,000 in neighborhood investment. "This was about a 3-4 fold yield overall," Stewart noted. "Once residents see that other residents are also investing, it's like a rolling snowball and unlocks their confidence to reinvest - both socially and financially. People really enjoy making their neighborhood a special place."

Pre-Applications for the Block Challenge grants will be available in early April, Stewart said. "Of course, we would love to fund all applications, but we anticipate more applications than we can fund in Year 01. Therefore it will be a competitive, based upon the strength of the application. The applications are reviewed by an independent review panel of individuals that live outside the traditional city."


About Oswego Renaissance Association (ORA):


The mission of the Oswego Renaissance Association (ORA) is to promote the development, restoration,  and preservation of healthy, vibrant neighborhoods & communities in Oswego, NY. The ORA provides resources, technical assistance, education and services to revitalize homes, downtown businesses, promote historic preservation and build positive communities. For additional information contact oswegorenaissance@gmail.com or visit www.oswegonyonline.com