Busy weekend and more pix

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photo 1-3It’s really getting hard to keep up with all the good news and fun events happening in Warren right now. Pick up a copy of today’s Tribune and you’ll see on the front page an article about a great group of kids from the Junior High youth group at North Mar Church, who, as a part of their summer “in-service” day, worked at the Alumni Garden at Elm and Atlantic, at the Giving Tree Garden and the Garden District “Adopt-a-Home” renovation on Vine. They made some great improvements. The photos here are all of their work, which you can see by attending the Garden District Crawl tomorrow afternoon (see details below) on what promises to be a spectacularly beautiful summer afternoon.

photo 2-3Then the lead editorial in the same edition of the Trib endorsed the efforts to revitalize the Garden District and the Robins Theater and other projects designed to move the city forward beyond patching roads and tearing down abandoned houses. Those things are important, too, but we have to move forward with new things too.

There is a lot to do this weekend. Tonight the Fine Arts Council is bringing one of our favorite local artists, Damian Knapp and his band to the Amp at 7:00 p.m.; admission is free.

Tomorrow night the FAC and TNP will showcase Carlos Jones at 7:00 at the Amp at no cost. Carlos put on a great show last year and we are looking forward to seeing him again.

photo 2-2Saturday is the U2 tribute band at River Rock and the Greek Festival started last night and runs through Sunday. It will be a fun weekend in Warren.

GD Crawl invitation

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A letter to the GE CEO

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 Regarding the vacant Ohio Lamp lots: we sent the letter below to Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, the owner of Ohio Lamp.  Will it be enough to get action? It’s hard to say, but we doubt it. We think it will take more, beginning with other people in Warren writing similar letters. The address is there. You don’t have to go into as much detail. Just write and reference this letter and the action it requests. This isn’t “someone else’s” job; if we want a better city everyone has to do something. 

July 16, 2014

Mr. Jeffrey R. Immelt, Chairman and CEO
General Electric Corporation
3135 Easton Turnpike
Fairfield, CT 06828

Dear Mr. Immelt:

I’ve seen you on TV many times and you’ve always seemed to me to be a decent man trying to do the right thing. I’m writing with the hope that my impressions were correct and that you will help correct an environmental injury being done by GE to our community.

GE’s Ohio Lamp factories made light bulbs in Warren, Ohio for many decades before closing operations here earlier this year. Unlike some other major companies who were a part of Warren’s industrial past, GE is doing the right thing and demolishing its old factory buildings in Warren rather than leaving them to deteriorate and blight our community, which is already burdened with thousands of vacant houses and commercial structures.

Unfortunately, what you are leaving behind is only marginally better for us than vacant factories. I’ve enclosed a couple of post demolition photos taken of your former factory site on West Market Street (parcel #39-524450). I’m not much of a photographer so these shots don’t give you the full sense of how bleak you are leaving this 1.17 acre lot on our main east-west thoroughfare.

This featureless, barren lot is about equal parts grass, weeds and bare patches of hard pan surrounded by an eight foot chain link fence topped with barbed wire. It resembles nothing so much as a Hollywood version of a maximum security prison yard. All it lacks are the gun towers.

As scary as this vacant lot looks, it pales compared to the fear many of us have over how another GE owned parcel (#39-524500), where demolition appears to have begun this week, will impact us once the land is bare.

This parcel is at at the corner of North Park and Dana, on Warren’s main north-south street, and is barely a half mile from our historic downtown Courthouse Square. It is also only three blocks from our Garden District, Warren’s oldest residential neighborhood and an area that dozens of local volunteers have been working tirelessly to revitalize over the past three years.

The fruits of our efforts in the Garden District are finally beginning to show, but if your old factory is replaced with a 2-1/2 acre mini-Attica, immediately adjacent to this lovely old neighborhood, it will be several steps backwards for our efforts and will be a difficult blow to overcome.

The sad part is that it would take so little to turn this problem into a big victory for both Warren and General Electric. You are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for demolition. If you spent the money you are spending on chain link fencing and razor wire, on trees, flowers and benches, you’d be a true corporate hero to everyone who hears the story.

It isn’t too late and we can offer all the help you could ever want. We have a terrific local CDC called Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, which also runs the county land bank and has several experts in post-industrial land reuse. Our Garden District volunteer corps includes several certified Ohio Master Gardeners. And we run a pretty darn good amateur PR operation, with close links to local media. We can ensure that GE will get the credit it deserves for the way it leaves Warren.

As mentioned above, none of this needs to cost a lot of money, but we do feel strongly that it is GE’s responsibility to leave Warren looking as good as a reasonable effort can leave it. The current “prison yard” motif is a bad metaphor for both you and us; but a couple of pleasant  parks or gardens would serve our citizens well and would be a much better complement to the  environmental storyline that infuses GE’s public relations and marketing.

I will be happy to answer any questions you or your colleagues have in an effort to create  an arrangement that is simple, inexpensive, and beneficial to both your company and to the people of this hard-working community, who are struggling so hard to create a new post industrial future for themselves.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of our situation and this request.

 

Sincerely,

Dennis BlankDSCN0709

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More new stuff and more new pix

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DSCN0726It was another big day of cool new stuff in the Garden District. Ron Book’s poem, “The Jenny” was painted on to boards by artist Laura Dechant, and mounted on the fence at 195 Belmont by Nick Bellas. It looks really cool. I hope you will all stop by and see it.DSCN0727

And while you are there, Rachel Dunn added some art to her Peace of Hope Garden — painted doors salvaged from GD houses that were demolished. We hope you enjoy the new pix but you have to come see them. The best opportunity will be on Friday, July 25th when we host the Garden District Crawl (see invite below for details). Afterwards you can stop by the Belmont house for dogs and burgers before heading to the Amp for the 7:00 p.m. Carlos Jones concert.DSCN0729DSCN0731

GD Crawl invitation

 

 

 

 

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Gee, GE, is this the best you can do?

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DSCN0709Let’s give General Electric some credit. While they don’t pay any U.S. income taxes they at least clean up their messes when they shut down a plant; take the local GE Ohio Lamp plants. The top two photos are the lot where their facility used to stand on West Market street, which is what remains instead of an abandoned and derelict building.

DSCN0714It probably cost them a half million dollars to take the building down, and we are better off with it gone. But when it comes to esthetics it is, at best, a very small improvement. Take a drive by and see for yourself. The entire lot is surrounded by chain link fencing topped with razor wire. It looks like a prison yard. It also looks like it got the basic demolition contractor’s “groundskeeper special” — a few handfuls of grass seed thrown here and there that looks almost like a lawn today, but which will be a weed-choked nightmare by this time next year. (It may be that the chain link and razor wire is temporary; I’m am investigating further and will let you know.)

Well, what’s done is done. At least as far as the west side lot goes. But GE is now about to tear down the old Dana Street facility — a massive block of buildings in the heart of the city, they sit just a few blocks from the Garden District and less than a mile of less from Courthouse Square, right on the corner of Park Avenue. (photos below) A totally naked, weedy, chain linked, razor-wired piece of nothing sitting right there will be DSCN0719another anchor tied around Warren’s neck as we try to swim upstream in the Revitalization River. We need to demand that GE does better than that. They can afford it. They made millions in Warren over the years. They owe it to us to do this the right way, but they aren’t going to unless we ask them to. We can start with pretty please and work our way up the insistence scale if we have to.

DSCN0716We’ll explore the options, look for some names and addresses and come up with a plan over the next few days. We will report what we find here but it is going to take a community effort. A couple letters and emails won’t be enough. Do we care enough to keep this cancer from growing in our town?DSCN0720

 

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Photo bombs

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DSCN0694We had planned a quick trip down to the Garden District this morning to see Frank’s latest stone planters — twin ellipses on opposing corners of Olive and Belmont — but there was so much going on in the GD and downtown we ended up spending a couple hours and taking a bunch of photos.

That’s Marley and Everett who were helping their mom and a bunch of other folks working on the Giving Tree Garden. That spot is looking especially good; the plants are coming in great — they even have a corn field — and there are so many other features to entertain the kids. DSCN0692

Then I visited the Peace of Hope Garden which is beautiful and in full bloom. That garden is also getting some great artistic features added. The foundations are in and we will see some cool stuff added in time for their “Grand Opening” next Friday. That’s Emily and Olivia having tea on their custom designed tea table.

(Someday we will learn how to match up text with photos – but until then you’ll have to guess which descriptions go with each photo.)DSCN0707

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There are a couple of shots of Frank on his planter-in-progress and a long shot of the finished twin. We continue to have great luck with neighbors who see the planters and ask to become care takers, and have been fortunate to have lots of flowers donated.DSCN0700

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Finally, I headed downtown and saw a big crowd of kids in front of Paul and Holly Clouser’s building playing and learning the game of chess from the Master — Jeff Butts. We hate to sound like cheerleaders but it was great to see so much positive activity taking place and so many people giving of their time and energy.DSCN0703

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