FULTON, NY – Fulton Block Builders administrative director, Linda Eagan addressed a packed house as she explained the mission of the grassroots organization and answered questions from the community at a recent informational meeting.
A room full of Fulton citizens intrigued by the program showed a strong potential for the Fulton Block Builders to grow in participants in the 2018 Block Challenge.
“In 2018, I am hopeful that a lot of blocks will expand neighborhood conversations, organize with new people, apply for a FBB grant and re-engage in their neighborhood and our community,” Eagan said.
The revitalization program, launched in Fulton in 2017 based off the Healthy Neighborhood Initiative, offers approved homeowners the opportunity to recapture a dollar-for-dollar match up to $1,000 on funds they use to make exterior home improvements.
In its first year, FBB received a $100,000 grant from The Richard S. Shineman Foundation that required a 50 percent match. With more than 30 local business donations and 20 individual donations, the required $50,000 was quickly raised and the debut of Fulton Block Builders was official.
Out of the 25 blocks that submitted final applications in the program’s first year, 22 of those blocks were awarded block challenge grants at the conclusion of individual work on each property.
All approved homeowners were required to make the approved exterior home improvements by the end of October at which time the final total showed a quarter of a million dollars had been invested in Fulton’s participating properties, meaning, for every dollar invested by FBB, property owners invested three times that amount.
“The initial goals of this program are to increase the street appeal of our city, increase neighborliness and increase community engagement. By supporting the areas of the city that are energized to embrace those goals the Healthy Neighborhood approach shows that we can build momentum throughout the city,” Eagan said, delighted that these goals were achieved in the program’s first year and energetic to expand upon them in 2018.
After compiling data, FBB determined six target areas throughout the city (a map can be found on their website.) Those that live in a target area have an advantage when submitting applications, however, any neighborhood of no more than ten properties with at least 50 percent of the block’s homeowners committed to participating can apply.
The Block Challenge will cover any exterior home improvements that do not change the architectural features of the property, guaranteed to not impact the property’s tax assessment due to an agreement made with city officials. Such improvements include painting, windows, front doors, sidewalks, steps, gutters, landscaping, lighting, mailboxes, and more.
Renters may not participate unless approval is received in writing from the property’s landlord. Any neighbors that relocate for the winter can assign someone to sign up on their behalf with written notification.
All intended improvements will be discussed with a FBB volunteer Block Ambassador before the final application is submitted to ensure all improvements are eligible for receiving the grant match.
Some exterior changes including the reduction of green space or application of vinyl siding will not be approved while other improvements such as putting in a new driveway, new roof, or adding a porch would be approached on an individual basis.
For 2018, the Shineman Foundation has committed another $100,000 grant on the basis that FBB match the grant by raising $50,000 of the funds.
Already, FBB is 75 percent complete in their fundraising goal after a $10,000 donation from Fulton Saving Bank and a $25,000 donation from Pathfinder Bank and several individual donations. Anyone looking to make a donation can learn how to do so, here.
With the fundraising portion nearly complete, community members are encouraged to gather their neighbors, select a Block Leader, and submit a Pre-Application due by March 16.
After submitting a pre-application, a volunteer Block Ambassador will visit each group of applicants to ensure they submit the best possible Final Application due by Wednesday, April 18.
Selected by a small committee of non-city residents, the awarded blocks will be announced May 1 and improvements can begin at any time with completion required by October 31.
Each homeowner is responsible for hiring any contractor of their choosing as FBB is not responsible for any work being done on participating properties. However, discounts will be available at several local businesses for FBB participants.
New this year, any city resident (even those not participating with FBB) can utilize the Paint Fulton customized paint pallets designed by historical architect and Fulton native, Susan Arena and receive a $500 reimbursement.
As the FBB continue to extend ideas of revitalization, excitement grows among program volunteers for the return of neighborhood togetherness, community pride, and continuing the spread of confidence and inspiration as Fulton Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. has described the revitalization program as “infectious.”
“It’s local, it’s homegrown, it’s grassroots, its us. We’re saying ‘we like Fulton. We are proud of Fulton and want to be a part of it,’” Eagan said.
For more information on Fulton Block Builders and the 2018 Block Challenge, visit the FBB website.