Friday, July 23, 2010

Neighborhood Canvas

Posted By on Fri, Jul 23, 2010 at 8:45 AM

[Part of this week's focus on foreclosures ... ]

A few years ago, as part of an annual clean up in Orange Mound, MIFA's Handyman volunteers noticed a vacant shotgun house.

"It had been boarded up before, but it never stayed," says Mary Claire Borys, manager of the Handyman program. "It kept getting broken into; people were setting fires in it. ... We thought we'd give it a shot at boarding it up."

Instead of putting a piece of blank plywood over the windows, the volunteers decided to experiment with an "artistic board-up," painting a mural on the plywood.

MIFAs artistic board-up in Orange Mound.
  • Mary Wilder
  • MIFA's artistic board-up in Orange Mound.
"For 19 months, no one touched it until the city came to tear it down," Borys says.

It's something that groups all over the country are experimenting with, either by painting murals or painting the plywood to look like windows or doors. They say it makes vacant properties less likely to be broken into.

"You can drive by these places and not even notice it," Borys says. "It helps lessen the effect of vacant property on communities."

The Mid-South Peace & Justice Center also has estimated that, b/c of the prevalence of fires in vacant and abandoned homes, it's more cost effective to board up the properties. A board-up costs the city about $600 while each fire costs the city about $17,500.

Though boarding up is mostly the purview of property owners, Blue Crush, and the city, MIFA is looking for public or private grant money to help them paint the plywood for those groups.

"We're hoping to get something started by this fall, even if it's just a bundle of houses to show what it would look like," Borys says.

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