(Neighborhood Investment for Community Enhancement)

Court Street Village Nonprofit developed the NICE Initiative (Neighborhood Investment for Community Enhancement) in 2009 to assist the neighborhoods we support become safe, strong and vital communities.  Beginning with the "tipping point" neighborhood of Central Park, the NICE Initiative focuses on five (5) strategies, or BLISS (Blight, Lighting, Investors, Safety and Security) specific to the Central Park neighborhood. The NICE Initiative was unveiled to neighborhood stakeholders in January, 2013.  Long term, our goal is to replicate this initiative in the other neighborhoods we support.

Central Park is one of the oldest neighborhoods in downtown Flint, Michigan, and its proximity to two anchor institutions, Mott Community College and UM-Flint, make the stability of this neighborhood vital. Central Park is 65% rentals, 35% owner-occupied. A large number of college students rent in the neighborhood, many of them international students. The NICE Initiative works to improve neighborhood conditions, thereby attracting homeowners, landlords, tenants and college students.

One of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city, Central Park’s stability rests with the residents who own homes and housing conditions will continue to be dictated by the landlords who own homes here. Through the NICE Initiative, our goal is to increase the curb appeal of the neighborhood so we can continue our diverse mix of owner-occupied and rental homes. By improving the attractiveness of the neighborhood, housing stock increases and safety improves. This contributes to the long-term stability of the neighborhood. 

                                                            BLISS Strategies
                                  (Blight, Lighting, Investors, Safety and Security)

I. Blight

A. PIP – Our Property Improvement Plan is designed to improve the curb appeal of homes through painting, repairing/replacing roofs, porches, steps, handrails, garage repair/demolition and windows. A condition report on each home in the neighborhood was completed in March, 2013. Home improvement contractors submitted cost estimates in April, 2013 for painting and roof replacement. We received cost estimates for porches, steps and handrails in May, 2013. In 2016, we received a grant to paint up to 12 homes in the neighborhood.  More detail is listed below under Investor's.

B. Landscaping – We will assess homes in need of foliage trimming and removal in 2016 in an effort to beautify the neighborhood and improve curb appeal. This will also deter would-be criminals that can use overgrown foliage to obscure their activity.

C. Vacant Homes – Research was completed in 2015 to determine which vacant homes are bank owned, foreclosed due to taxes, owned but empty, owned by the Land Bank, etc. We were successful in working with the Land Bank to have a dilapidated home on Crapo Street demolished in 2015. The Blight Committee is currently compiling a list of homes to be added to the Land Bank's demolition list and seeking ways to rehabilitate homes that are livable. 

Additionally, CSVNP will continue to advocate on behalf of the neighborhood for strict code enforcement by working with the city's Blight Coordinator and Rental Inspector.  The Land Bank's Clean & Green program will continue to be an important partnership for lawn care in 2016.  Working with neighborhood youth, we partnered with Keep Genesee County Beautiful in 2014 for the elimination and prevention of graffiti, most notably along northbound Chavez Drive between Court Street and Kearsley. 

II. Lighting

The lighting in Central Park did not have an adequate footprint, causing pockets of dark areas throughout the neighborhood. Students and homeowners walking at night felt unsafe. In addition, the Mercury Vapor and High Pressure Sodium light fixtures were outdated and not cost efficient. Court Street Village presented a plan, and budget, to a local nonprofit in May, 2013. This nonprofit (McFarlan Home) granted $50,000 to upgrade the light fixtures in Central Park to LED. We collaborated with Consumers Energy and City of Flint officials to begin plans for the conversion. Five test light fixtures were installed by Consumer's Energy in August, 2014. The remaining 45 fixtures were completed on December 5, 2014.  An additional ten LED street lights were installed in July, 2015.  This was a cutting-edge project that directly involved residents from the Central Park Neighborhood Association.  

Overgrown trees in this aged neighborhood blocked street lighting and needed to be trimmed. Upgraded lighting will only be successful when we are able supplement it with tree trimming. In preparation for the LED lighting, an assessment of overgrown trees was done on October 8, 2013. In December, 2013, the Community Foundation of Greater Flint awarded a $4,625 grant for tree trimming. This project was completed on February 19, 2014, in preparation of the LED conversion.

III. Investors

The Central Park neighborhood is 65% rental. Some landlords lack the initiative to keep their properties attractive. In addition, there is a disconnect between landlords, homeowners and renters. Our goal is to beautify the neighborhood by improving housing conditions, bridge the gap between all stakeholders, and establish accountability.

A. CPC (Central Park Certified) – We are developing a program that would allow landlords to become “certified”. This includes working with the city of Flint on code enforcement. Once a landlord passes city inspection and criteria set forth by the Investors Committee, they will be able to utilize services through the program. This includes usage of a standardized lease agreement and access to credit and background checks, which would be performed through Court Street Village. Increasing the caliber of renters will result in less turn-over. Less turn-over will result in higher profits for landlords. Higher profits will result in positive cash flow, which will allow landlords to maintain and beautify their property

B. Landlord/Tenant Handbooks – One segment of becoming CPC is the ability to use a standardized landlord handbook and tenant manual. This will aid landlords so they become consistent in policy with their renters. The tenant handbook will inform renters of expectations (ie; when to put trash to the curb, inform them of recycling criteria, etc.). Better communication and consistent policy will make for better landlords and tenants and assist in bridging the gap between renters, landlords and homeowners. The Community Foundation of Greater Flint issued CSVNP a grant to have the landlord/tenant manual duplicated electronically.  This was completed in November, 2014. 

C.  Paint Project - CSVNP received a grant in March, 2016 to paint up to twelve homes in the Central Park neighborhood.  This "facelift" will freshen the neighborhood and allow landlords to become more involved in the Investor's Committee. We expect the project to be completed by September 30, 2016.

IV. Safety

 A. Sidewalks – Because Central Park is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, tree roots are pushing up sidewalks which make them trip hazards. This causes many pedestrians to walk in the street thereby causing another safety hazard. A sidewalk assessment has been completed and a budget drafted. A cost estimate was obtained in November, 2014. We will seek partnerships and potential funding opportunities to replace the sidewalks in 2016.

B. Trees - Many trees in this aged neighborhood are overgrown and protrude past the sidewalks which makes walking on the sidewalks nearly impossible. Eye level tree trimming will encourage pedestrians to use the sidewalks, making the neighborhood safer. CSVNP received a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint to trim trees and bushes that obstruct the sidewalks.  The grant also allowed for the removal of sixteen tree stumps.  This work was completed in October, 2015.

V.  Security 

After a rash of B&E’s in 2012, allegedly by neighborhood youth, Court Street Village assisted the Central Park Neighborhood Association in establishing a Safety Committee. The following are initiatives that came as a result of the committee meetings.

A. Youth Council – After the B&E’s occurred, we discovered many adults in the neighborhood could not properly identify the youth. This was an opportunity to bridge the gap between neighborhood youth and adults. Because of the many renters, transient youth did not feel connected to the neighborhood and there was no sense of pride. We began with a brainstorming session involving neighborhood teenagers in September, 2012.  The Youth Council remained active until May, 2015 when seventeen of our eighteen active youth relocated out of the city.

B. Patrols – We have been working with Mott Campus Police and they have increased their presence in the neighborhood. We are currently working with UM-Flint campus police to do the same. UM-Flint’s investment in the UAH (Urban Alternative House) on Eddy Street increases their stake in this neighborhood. Our long term goal is to establish a “Super Safety Committee” that would include major stakeholders such as the Flint Cultural Center, Mott Community College and UM-Flint.

C. Cameras – In summer, 2013, CPNA purchased one wireless camera that can be moved easily to known “hot spots” throughout the neighborhood. A second wireless camera was purchased with funding from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint in November, 2014.  

The NICE Initiative is a comprehensive plan to stabilize and improve the neighborhoods Court Street Village Nonprofit supports.  Recognizing each neighborhood is unique and has its own set of challenges, strategies will differ according to individual neighborhood needs. Strategies may also change or evolve as these challenges are met.  Please check back periodically for updates on our progress.