Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Growth by Restoring Community's Soul

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Growth by Restoring Community's Soul

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

For the past decade, Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corp. has been helping the struggling community around Moncrief Road, Myrtle Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway find its way back to being a place where people can live rather than just bide their time.

But to do that, it's finding that it must do more than restore its housing.

It must also help restore its soul.

That's what corporation President Paul Tutwiler told me recently during its "District of Soul" celebration at the North Point Town Center.

KNOWN FOR GREAT CITIZENS

While the celebration, which featured a band blasting dance tunes like Prince's "Let's Go Crazy," a step show, lemonade and homemade goods, was all part of its eighth annual Health and Neighbors Day, he said that it was also a step toward helping residents define their neighborhood through its cultural heritage.

"We don't always want to be known as Health Zone One or the Northwest Quadrant," said Tutwiler, whose corporation has built and sold about 70 houses in that community since 2001.

"We don't want to be always talked about in terms of the highest things that are negative. Rather, we want to be known for our great citizens, such as James Weldon Johnson, who once graced our presence as principal of [Old] Stanton [High School], and A.L. Lewis and Joseph Blodgetta

"We want to promote that legacy and carry those legacies forward so that our citizens can be proud of their community and never, never ashamed."

A couple of days before the June 16 celebration, the James Weldon Johnson Hometown Heritage Tour contributed to that remaking by inviting people to visit 14 sites connected to Johnson.

Yet Tutwiler knows that it takes opportunity as well as heritage and housing to revive a community. …

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