An anonymous donor has contributed $50,000 to the fledging Urban Main Street program in Tulsa's Kendall-Whittier district, giving a shot in the arm to efforts to revitalize the area.
Kendall Whittier officials learned in March their application to join the state Department of Commerce's Urban Main Street program had been approved, despite the fact the district had been unable to secure a required $50,000 donation from the city to help fund the program.
Teresa O'Rourke, a local real estate agent who served as the chairwoman of the district's Main Street application committee, said the donor came forward last week and offered the group the money.
"Everyone is just jumping for joy over that," she said, adding that the sum brings the district's fundraising total to $80,000 -- still $20,000 shy of the $100,000 required to fully fund the program for a year.
But O'Rourke isn't worried about the program eventually meeting its goal.
"We feel so fortunate in Kendall-Whittier because there are a lot of donors," she said.
O'Rourke said a "visioning" meeting, attended mostly by neighborhood business owners, was held April 22 at Kendall-Whittier Elementary School to help establish an identity for the program.
"What is Kendall-Whittier, and what does that mean," O'Rourke said, describing the questions those in attendance tried to answer.
One possible answer that emerged was the district's characterization as an arts district because of the presence of the Circle Cinema and Ziegler Art & Frame, she said.
"Of course, we'd be competing with the Brady (Arts District), but that's OK," O'Rourke said. "There's plenty of art to go around."
She said others espoused the idea of promoting the district as a family-oriented area in order to take advantage of its walkability.
The next step in the establishment of the program, O'Rourke said, is the hiring of a full-time program director. The organization's board of directors is soliciting applications now and hopes to have a decision made by June 1, she said.
Finally, the organization's board of directors will be undergoing the Commerce Department's official Main Street orientation and training sometime next month, as soon as a site can be lined up, according to O'Rourke. That event will be attended by representatives of Bartlesville's new Main Street program, as well, she said.
The Main Street program provides training and technical assistance for preservation-based commercial district revitalization. Kendall-Whittier is often cited as the first urban shopping district in Tulsa outside of downtown.
Helping the Community
A recent call from Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. seeking volunteers to help with mowing, graffiti removal and other work on public properties has met with a sizable response, according to a Mayor's Office spokesman.
Bob Bledsoe of the Communications Department said it didn't take long for the calls to start coming in after the mayor sent letters to neighborhood leaders and churches in early April seeking their help for the cash-strapped city.
"Oh yeah, we had about 31 calls the first week the announcement went out," he said.
Bledsoe said 39 groups have contacted the Mayor's Action Center offering to mow in general areas across the city, while another five groups had offered to help mow city parks. A total of 24 groups called to offer their services for paint and graffiti removal.
Bledsoe said citizens were removing graffiti in south Tulsa on Monday, May 3 and others would be working downtown later in the week.
Their efforts are being coordinated by the city's Public Works Department and the Working In Neighborhoods Department. The Action Center takes volunteers' information and directs them to the appropriate person in each department.
According to city officials, Public Works has compiled a list of work that can be done by volunteers, who are also free to suggest their own tasks if they identify a need in their neighborhood. The Public Works list includes such tasks as painting of athletic fields or other park furnishings, cleaning and weeding flower beds on landscaped rights of way and in parks, and straightening gravestones in cemeteries.
Volunteers for mowing must have their own equipment, but Public Works can provide paint and other supplies for graffiti removal.
Anyone interested in volunteering or making a suggestion for a project on public property can call the Mayor's Action Center at 596-2100 or use the online "general contact" link on the city's website at cityoftulsa.org.
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