Monday, April 4, 2011

Better Block Project

Sunday I participated in "Elbow Grease Weekend" for the Better Block Project in Mount Rainier, a collaborative community-driven project to invigorate our historic 34th Street business district.  The idea is to show the potential of the Mount Rainier Town Center by showing off our "Main Street" at its best for one day - a new coat of paint on old buildings, revitalized storefronts for existing businesses, and "pop-up" art and businesses in vacant storefronts.  I encourage everyone to come out on Saturday, April 9 from noon to 6pm at 34th St and Bunker Hill Road and support this kind of creative thinking about revitalizing our community.
Painting the Odd Even Thrift Shop at 34th and Rhode Island
I talked with Jan Townshend of the Neighborhood Design Center, who first conceived of the project and recruited other community organizations to make it happen.  "As soon as I saw the video about the original Better Block project in Texas I immediately thought of 34th Street in Mount Rainier.  It had all the elements we were looking for - vacant storefronts but the potential to be really vital."  She first approached Envision Prince George's to support the idea, and with their backing worked out from there.

"This kind of work is a core part of our mission - lifting up communities," said Ruthie Mundell, Marketing and Outreach Director at Community Forklift, an Edmonston, Maryland based building materials reuse center.

Enthusiasm was evident among the volunteers who gathered Sunday to offer their time for the home they love.  Brooke Kidd led a group from Joe's Movement Emporium and thanked the volunteers with a lunch of tacos and pupusas at Francis Carryout (where Better Block visitors will be able to dine outdoors in a garden seating area designed by Mount Rainier landscape designer Kathy Osore).

"The local artists are very excited," said Townshend.  "Alonzo Davis is curating a one-day exhibit with major Gateway Arts District artists at 3830 34th Street that will be a major draw."

I hope to see you this Saturday as we support our community and local businesses!

Major sponsors include:
Envision Prince George's
Maryland National Capital Park and Parking Commission
County Councilman Will Campos, District 2
Anacostia Trails Heritage Area
Community Forklift
Scrap DC
Joe's Movement Emporium
Mount Rainier Business Association
Gateway CDC
Neighborhood Design Center
Kathy Osore, Gardens for All Seasons
City of Mount Rainier

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