One way to prevent or fight blight is to establish a neighborhood beautification program. This means improving the aesthetics of or “beautifying” your neighborhood through physical improvements such as litter and graffiti cleanup, adding plants, flowers and signage, and establishing a maintenance program so that efforts are long-lasting. In effect this improves quality of life for everyone in the community.
It helps to have 1 or 2 local champions who then gather volunteers and community support, cultivating a spirit of pride and volunteerism in the community.
Here are some programs and suggestions.
One national program that your town can participate in is America in Bloom, which offers awards through a judging process to communities that transform their city or town. While preparing for the contest can be a lot of work, and can be costly, there also are other grassroots ways your community can get together to beautify your town, such as partnering with local organizations on a community-wide cleanup or creating a community garden.
Huntington, West Virginia had a great experience competing in the America in Bloom program in 2013 and the Huntington in Bloom team can offer insights for a successful beautification program. Read about their story here or contact Lisa Riley for more information.
Also visit this page from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) for a list of 10 ways to beautify your town.
Another way to uplift your town, in particular the downtown area, is to determine a unified look for the facades of the storefronts. One way to do this is to establish a facade easement program, which is a legal mechanism (also known as a covenant or restriction) to protect and preserve properties with historical or architectural significance.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation offers basic information and frequently asked questions about preservation easements here.
Another alternative is to establish a facade grant program that allows individual businesses to request reimbursement funds for part of the work to improve their storefront. An example that Main Street Fairmont implemented is found here.
Preserving historic buildings, conserving materials, and developing a unified character are additional ways to improve the appearance of your town. Check out the Destination Beautification booklet below for more ideas. Additional links pertaining to historic preservation and sources of funding can be found on this page, and information about deconstruction can be found here.
Rural design is an important tool for rural communities to build on existing assets and improve the way a community looks, its quality of life, and its economic viability. The Citizen’s Institute on Rural Design includes resources for communities interested in design issues such as downtown revitalization, growth management, and preservation.
What is placemaking? Placemaking is both a philosophy and process that involves the planning, design, and management of public spaces. It capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential to create public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well being.
PROJECT FOR PUBLIC SPACES
Project for Public Spaces is a nonprofit planning, design, and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. They offer resources and tips to finding affordable and effective solutions to improve a place.
Check out these ideas for how you can take action to improve your public space:
ART PLACE AMERICA
ArtPlace America is a collaboration among foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions that works to position arts and culture as a core sector of community planning and development to strengthen communities’ social, physical, and economic fabric.
Explore their library to find interesting articles, toolkits, and other content from both ArtPlace and the broader field of creative placemaking.
The New River Gorge Development Authority offers a great resource with more ideas on beautification through facade improvements, historic preservation, public arts, urban agriculture, and tourism. Check it out below.