More than 10 years ago, when the South Perry Business and Neighborhood Association held its first meetings, most of the businesses that now define the South Perry District were not around.
At the association’s annual meeting on Monday, many reminisced about the neighborhood before it had the South Perry Farmers Market, The Lantern, Perry Street Café and South Perry Pizza, which hosted this week’s meeting.
“Today is an evening of celebrating how South Perry is this awesome community,” said Deb Conklin, pastor at Liberty Park United Methodist Church and association president.
About 30 people showed up on a night that also featured a mayoral candidate debate and a city council meeting.
The 11th Street Fair and Parade took place this summer. Proceeds from that event have always been donated to neighborhood charities and nonprofits. This year, Families of Promise and Team Grant both received $1,000 and the association kept a little less than that in the bank.
“Keeping some of the money is a new thing,” said Conklin. “That means we can put on a program or bring in a speaker or have a seminar that you all are interested in.”
The Grant Park Community Garden was next on the agenda. As one of the first community gardens on Spokane Parks Department property, it came together in a hurry this spring and it’s been successful.
Volunteers put in more than 500 hours to tear out the sod, build garden beds and haul dirt to get the plots ready. There have been a few problems with vandalism and some vegetables have gone missing. The garden must raise money for a $5,000 fence to be installed before the next growing season.
“I have a lot of gratitude toward SPBNA,” said Brian Estes, who’s one of the leaders of the garden. “It’s been great to see it come together. Next year, we will start the growing season in April so we’ll get even more out of it.”
Another new initiative this summer was three free community concerts in Grant Park. The concerts raised $385 in donations toward the community garden.
“Next year, we’ll double the number of concerts,” said Vice President Marshall Powell.
The Grant Park Community Garden is still looking for garden bed sponsors, and there are plots available for next growing season. It’s possible to expand the size of the garden.
“I’d like to see a big, long waiting list before we start talking about expanding the garden,” Powell said.
Heidi Hash of Team Grant said that students at Grant Elementary School have collected 170 pounds of trash in Grant Park – in just eight Saturdays.
“I think part of the problem is a lack of trash receptacles. If they were there, people would probably use them,” Hash said, adding that students also collected a large number of alcohol containers and often find needles and condoms in the park.
The neighborhood is considering becoming a voluntary alcohol impact area – a status that limits sale of the cheap, high-alcohol beverages that typically are consumed on sidewalks and in the park – as a way of dealing with some of the problems in Grant Park.
“The park is a perennial problem for us,” Conklin said. “It’s not just about alcohol. It’s about all kinds of inappropriate activity taking place at the park after dark.”
All evening, the tone of the meeting was upbeat and energized as people shared ideas and phone numbers over snacks and juice.
The type of positive neighborhood revitalization and development seen in the Perry District takes a dedicated group of volunteers to pull it all together.
Throughout the evening the need for volunteers to join the association was emphasized. Anyone who lives, owns a business or works in the neighborhood is welcome at the meetings and gains the right to vote on any issue after showing up for three meetings in a row.
“Please come and be involved now,” Powell said. “We will be making some decisions over the next couple of months, and we really want to hear from you.”