Willmore City Heritage Association wins first place in national competition

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willmore-city-home neighborhood of the year award

Restored Home

The Willmore City Heritage Association (WCHA) won first place in Neighborhoods, USA’s Neighborhood of the Year Award 2010 national competition in the category of Physical Revitalization – Single Neighborhood.

The project saved a 106-year old house from demolition, moved and restored it, helped a local family buy it and removed two blighted, vacant lots from the neighborhood.  

“Congratulations to Willmore City Heritage Association for this tremendous accomplishment,” said Councilmember Robert Garcia, who represents the First District, where the house is located. “Their caring and hard work on behalf of this community and their commitment to historic preservation are inspiring, and they really deserve this recognition. We are lucky to have such great partners in our community.”

The award was announced late last month in Little Rock, Ark. The Neighborhood Resource Center will host a reception to celebrate this neighborhood group’s win on Monday, June 14, at 6:00 pm at 425 Atlantic Ave.  The neighborhood group will share with the community their presentation that they presented in the competition.

“We are grateful that we have a chance to experience these living tributes to history, whether modest or spectacular, and are thankful that others before us inadvertently preserved these homes so well because their modest means precluded efforts to “modernize” them,” said Carrol Goddard, WCHA Past President (1998-1999), who participated in the competition. “Our work is an exciting example of how to turn around and revitalize aging inner city neighborhoods in the urban core and to allow for the development of schools or other public improvements without destroying the fabric, history and architecture that exists within these communities.”

The two-story house was built in 1904 at the southwest corner of Maine Avenue and 3rd Street. Ninety-nine years later, the vacant and run-down house was moved to a temporary location to make way for Cesar Chavez Elementary School.

In July 2006, the house was moved to 419 Daisy Ave., where it was positioned on two vacant lots that had previously been blighted.

WCHA secured a $350000 loan to rehabilitate the house, then sold the house to a couple from the neighborhood, who now live in it. The loan is repaid, the neighborhood has a new school and a piece of Long Beach history has been restored.

“It just takes people who care to make a difference,” said Cheryl Perry, WCHA Past President (2004-2009) who also participated in the competition. “It was a lengthy, expensive and complicated project that took five years to complete, but we have created a project that is a model for other cities and communities to replicate.”

Partnerships in the project included: Long Beach Redevelopment Agency, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, City of Long Beach Neighborhood Services Bureau, the Long Beach Water Department, Long Beach Development Services, the Jordan High School ACE Program, Blue Gecko Landscape Design, Friends House at Drake Park, Ed Gonzalez Landscape, Elena Munoz Handy Work, and Ed Gonzalez Painting.

This is the second time that the Willmore City Heritage Association has been a winner in the Neighborhood of the Year Award national competition.  In 2004, Willmore City Heritage Association was awarded 2nd place in the national Neighborhood of the Year contest at the Neighborhoods, USA Annual Conference held in Hollywood, Florida.  The award, in the category of Social Revitalization – Single Neighborhood, was given for a school children’s safety project completed in cooperation with several partners including the Willmore Community Police Center, Madres Unidas, Girl Scout Troop #246, Edison Elementary School, United Cambodian Community, MTA, and the Neighborhood Services Bureau.

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