Groups making the effort to revitalize Warren's Garden District have planted wildflowers and grasses in about 50 vacant lots there so far, but since it takes a while for the gardens to mature, they sought a visual ''something'' to immediately improve the neighborhood.
They were looking for ''an obvious symbol of the revival,'' which they found in 195 Belmont Ave. N.E., said Dennis Blank, a spokesman for Gregg's Gardens, one of the organizations behind the movement to repopulate the area.
It was an ugly, dreary house. It has been transformed into an eye-catching and -popping, multi-colored, brightly painted centerpiece for the rejuvenation project.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Volunteers and members of community groups have worked together to refurbish this house in Warren.
The home is part of a larger plan to breathe new life into a 22-block area near the center of Warren by Gregg's Gardens, Trumbull 100 and Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership. The district is bounded by Park Avenue, Atlantic Street, Elm Road and High Street.
The first step was to plant up to 100 new wildflower lots, now half complete. Next step is this house.
There wasn't enough money to turn the entire home into an information center, so the focus shifted to the exterior by having it painted blue, with red, yellow and teal accents. The porch serves as an ''info porch,'' where there are details about what's happening in the Garden District and what to do to buy a home from the Trumbull County Land Bank.
Most of the paint was donated by Sherwin Williams, Blank said. Money was raised to pay for the rest. Jessica Gaines of Howland, a volunteer with Gregg's Gardens, created the color design.
The ''ugly boarded windows,'' said Aaron Chine, a local artist and one of the organizers of Gregg's Gardens, will be covered with sheets of Masonite containing portraits of Warren's notable former residents.
''So, you'll have Neil Armstrong waving out of one window and Roger Ailes from another,'' Blank said. ''I think it will be kind of cool.''
The likes of Ailes, chairman and CEO of FOX News, and Armstrong, the former astronaut who lived in Champion and took his first flight in Warren, will be joined by Dave Grohl, former Nirvana drummer and the frontman for the Foo Fighters; Chris Columbus, the Champion native and Warren John F. Kennedy graduate who directed the first two films of the blockbuster Harry Potter franchise and other big films, including ''Home Alone'' and ''Adventures in Babysitting''; and Catherine Bach, who played Daisy Duke in the ''Dukes of Hazzard'' television series.
Steve Wishnewski of Girard, painting portraits of Columbus and Bach, said being included in a a project of this type is ''truly an honor.''
''To help kick-start a neighborhood revitalization in Warren is such an important positive effort for the future progress of the city,'' Wishnewski, 36, wrote in an email. ''And to be included in this group of talented artists shows a great sense of camaraderie and unity in the local art scene.''
Joseph Perry of Austintown is painting Grohl, who was born in Warren.
''To be asked to partake in such an effort like this I feel is a fantastic opportunity, and I'm honored to be part of it,'' wrote Perry, 24, in a email.
Also, art students from John F. Kennedy High School will be painting stanzas from a poem by local poet Ron Book on boards that will be attached to a fence around the house. Book's poem relates to Warren's steel heritage.
''We're just trying to create a little cultural center, give people a reason to stop by and to tie the importance of the neighborhood in the community,'' Blank said.
The home is part of the land bank inventory and is available for sale.