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Building EPIC Communities

 

History

Klutho --SpringfiledIn May 2012, LISC Jacksonville introduced the Sustainable Communities model to Jacksonville, with EPIC Communities: Empower People...Inspire Change. The program's five pillars include: 1) improving access to quality education; 2) fostering livable, safe, healthy environments; 3) developing, preserving and investing in the physical environment; 4) increasing family income and wealth; and 5) stimulating economic activity.

Based on a model that has been successful in 111 neighborhoods in 29 cities across the country, Jacksonville introduced the EPIC Communities Initiative in two neighborhoods -- Historic Eastside/Springfield and Northwest Jacksonville. The convening agencies leading the work in each neighborhood are Operation New Hope in East Jacksonville/Springfield and Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corporation in Northwest Jacksovnille.

As evidenced by the success of the national model, the most enduring, effective plans for sustainable communities emerge from a "bottom up" process. This initiative guides the people who live and work in a neighborhood in a process that enables them to create, design, develop and implement their own community's redevelopment solution rather than asking them to merely implement the dictates of outside sources who supposedly "know their needs better than they do." Historically, top-down processes have failed, because they do not involve the people they are designed to serve.

From May-September 2012, program facilitators in the two EPIC Communities gathered infNortwest Jax Farmers Marketormation by listening to more than 400 neighborhood residents, business owners, and individuals who work in the respective communities. They gathered information through individual interviews, focus groups, listening tours and historical research. On September 29, 2012, each convening agency invited everyone involved to a neighborhood-wide meeting to discuss the results of the research; use the "findings" from the research to create a vision for their neighborhood; develop goals, strategies, action plans that include key measures of progress; and identify a list of potential community partners. Following this "visioning" day, the leadership from both neighborhoods conducted a series of community forums to refine the proposed recommendations and craft a final Quality of Life Plan for each respective neighborhood.

 

Progress

To date, the progress is impressive. Accomplishments include: the establishment of a neighborhood fGroundworkarmers market; the creation of an urban vegetable garden; the creation of an urban business development incubator; the establishment of the Moncrief Business Association; the final build-out of the North Point Town Center to accommodate additional retail tenants; revitalization of the appearance of the A. Philip Randolph corridor through neighborhood clean-ups, grants for facade enhancements, and a new outdoor marketplace; increased access to safe decent housing with the development of 8 single-family homes in Oakland Commons and 60 affordable rental units at Oakland Terrace; and increased access for neighborhood residents to health screenings, legal counsel, student mentoring services, financial literacy and credit repair counseling, etc.

In 2014, LISC played a crucial role in the establishment of Groundwork Jacksonville, the local affiliate of Groundwork USA Trust. Groundwork USA is a nationally recognized organization focused on reclaiming polluted urban environments.  Groundwork Jacksonville will lead the initiative to “clean up” and improve the Hogan’s Creek waterway system, a major pollutant of Jacksonville’s Historic Eastside and the source of many of the community’s environmental challenges. This waterway improvement is a major focus of the Quality of Life Plan for the Springfield / Historic Eastside neighborhoods developed through LISC’s EPIC Community Initiative. The national relationship between LISC and Groundwork Trust was instrumental in generating their interest in our city and influencing the establishment of a local office in Jacksonville.

MLK DAy of SErviceLISC again enlisted Northwest Jacksonville CDC and Operation New Hope to join with United Way as part of the 2015 Martin Luther King Day of Service celebration. In addition to over 500 volunteers from United Way and Hands On Jacksonville, volunteers from each community worked on twenty projects designed to improve their respective neighborhoods.

Momentum for the work in the EPIC neighborhoods continues to build as residents see the progress that they have made. 2013 Progress Reports are attached and 2014 Progress reports are currently being developed by the neighborhood task forces.

Over the next three years, LISC plans to explore expanding the EPIC Communities model into other urban neighborhoods by convening business leaders, nonprofit staff, volunteers and community leaders with the goal of stimulating emerging leadership for community development partnerships and projects.