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Model neighborhood

Fairmount Park residents set a standard for city initiative

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Print this page by Elizabeth Cooper

Norfolk residents are stepping up to take ownership of their neighborhoods by fighting crime and property neglect. It’s an initiative that city leaders wholeheartedly support. “So much of the solution is in the hands of the residents,” says Bob Batcher, the city’s communications director. “What’s really important for us is to create an environment where people can work together to take their neighborhood back.”

Fairmont Park residents did just that. The racially–integrated, post-World War II community of 14,000 residents was plagued with high crime rates and code enforcement problems. Six years ago, residents decided to take matters into their own hands. “We looked within ourselves as a community,” says Taylor Gould, who has been president of the civic league since 2006. “A lot of those things needed to come from the neighborhood in terms of a mindset change. We formed our own framework for how we were going to link together as a community and only ask for city involvement when we couldn’t solve problems internally.”

The results are impressive. Working together, residents brought more than 400 properties into compliance within two years and formed a neighborhood watch leading to a 75 percent reduction in crime. Gould proudly notes that Fairmont Park is now a self-enforcing community. Next up, residents plan to revitalize Lafayette Boulevard’s commercial corridor which runs through the center of the neighborhood. “We’re on the cusp of becoming a really wonderful place to live in Norfolk,” Gould says. “When you get everyone from the community involved, you’re becoming better neighbors because you’re engaged.”

The city is using Fairmont Park as a model for its new Neighbors Building Neighborhoods program. Batcher says residents are encouraged to partner with the city to provide a vision for their neighborhoods. “When you have a sense of pride and ownership, you have a better community.” Norfolk is testing that initiative in Park Place, a lower-income neighborhood adjacent to ODU with high crime rates. The city has initiated community conversations with students and residents to improve the neighborhood. “It goes far beyond increased police activity,” Batcher adds. “It goes into neighbors looking out for each other.” 

And, as city leaders and residents stress, it’s one reason that Norfolk has endured more than 300 years. “We’re a resilient community,” Batcher notes. “We always seem to be coming back.”


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