Warren residents discuss central neighborhoods

WARREN – Mikenna McClurg is helping design the Giving Tree Project, a children’s garden, at the corner of Scott Avenue and Vine Street. Cathie McLennan worries about break-ins and crime around her Charles Avenue home.

Both women were a part of the final session of a series of Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership Community Challenge Grant meetings on Thursday that focused on the city’s central neighborhoods.

Nearly a dozen residents attended the afternoon session discussing the demographics of the area and its housing stock and brainstormed ways to make the area better.

TNP will have more meetings discussing what is happening in three other sections of the city. The next neighborhood meeting series will take place toward the end of May.

McClurg, who has taught in area schools and has young children, responded to a TNP Facebook advertisement for ideas what to do with vacant lots around the city. McClurg and an artist friend, Allison Keith, collaborated on an idea of placing a children’s garden in the central city neighborhood.

The will feature six raised beds of vegetables and flowers, and use abandoned tires to make a caterpillar in which neighborhood children will place plants and trees. The children’s garden covers two abandoned lots.

McLennan has lived in the Charles Street area for 27-plus years. She said there was a murder two doors from her home about two years ago. Last Sunday, McLennan’s home was burglarized.

She would like something to be done to make herself and others feel safe in their own homes. She said city leaders have worked to attract the poor so it can get more federal dollars aimed at the poor.

“I think they should make the city’s footprint smaller so they will not have to take care of so much land and will need fewer police officers, firemen and other city services,” she said.

McLennan emphasized that she loves the greater Warren area, with its affordable homes and relatively low tax rates compared to cities like Cleveland, where she works. She said she does not want to move from the city, but changes need to be made.

“When you have a lot of rental properties, often people move in them for six months or so and then move,” she said. “Often, they don’t care about the properties or the neighborhoods.”

Increasing the number of health and property code inspectors, would, in McLennan’s opinion, force property owners to maintain their properties to a minimum standard.

Taron Cunningham, a zoning and strategic planner with TNP, said the city’s population declined from a high of 68,000 in 1975 to about 41,077 in 2012. About 66 percent of the city’s population is older than 25.

Jim Pirko, president of the Warren Area Board of Realtors, said the age distribution in the city was decent.

“Some communities which have a heavy concentration of retirees worry anytime someone dies, because it will affect their populations,” Pirko said.

Pirko said although houses in the central city may be affordable it is difficult to sell them because of their age and their sizes.

“People who can afford to purchase homes and are looking generally are looking at homes built after 1975, because the rooms are smaller,” he said. “They are functionally obsolete.”

Marissa Williams, the community planning coordinator for TNP, said the goal of the meeting was to get input from neighborhood residents about what they would like to see done with vacant land in their neighborhoods.

“We want to take into account what residents want done with the land,” Williams said.