City joins effort to revitalize Decatur's poorest neighborhoods
DECATUR, Ill. (WICS) —
The City of Decatur is joining a decades long, community wide effort to revitalize two of its lowest income neighborhoods.
Later this month, Decatur will discuss a proposal for long-term funding to revitalize neighborhoods across the city.
We're told their focus will be on some of the city's lower income neighborhoods.
"I'm excited," said Pastor BJ Leonard, First Christian Church. "I'm proud of our city for taking those steps."
Leonard has been helping transform abandoned buildings and properties into usable spaces in GM Square, encouraging growth in one of Decatur's poorest neighborhoods.
Any investment from the city will help the 15-year effort his church has made to reduce crime, and promote economic development, Leonard said.
"In the same way we have planted fruit trees in the neighborhood, and we haven't seen any fruit yet, in a few years we plan to see fruit," he said. "Anything you do in a community is a long-term view, it's a long term commitment."
The GM Square and Old King's Orchard neighborhoods are known for having higher crime and lower incomes.
Last week, the city green-lighted about $400,000 to rebuild sidewalks in both neighborhoods.
It's a first step towards revitalization.
"That's a structural effort to do what we're trying to do relationally," Leonard said. "We're trying to tell kids, we're trying to tell moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas that they have value."
Investing in neighborhoods can reduce crime, Leonard said.
Once somebody feels valued, they're no longer in a place of desperation," he said. "They're no longer in a place where they feel like they don't have a voice."
Pastor Stacey Brohard has been transforming crime ridden areas into community gardens in Old King's Orchard for years.
He's already heard criticism from taxpayers about the city helping revitalize poor neighborhoods.
"You can be an ostrich and stick your head in the sand and hope the problem goes away, but what I like is a government that's going to work on the problem," Brohard said.
The city says formal plans for their long-term revitalization project will be discussed Sept. 25.