B.E.S.T. Neighborhood Activities
B.E.S.T. functions in various community development arenas, focusing primarily on housing and beautification initiatives. Within these two focus areas, B.E.S.T. offers plenty of volunteer and employment opportunities for those living inside and outside the neighborhood. In addition, B.E.S.T. provides community building activities that complement our projects and augment the goals of our organization. Below are some of the projects and activities B.E.S.T. does to improve the community.
New Home Construction - B.E.S.T started a new home construction program to attract potential homeowners to the East Bayfront area. Since 2004, B.E.S.T has awarded grants totaling $500,000 to new, first-time homeowners, collaborating with local banks who have invested more than $1.6 million in mortgage loans on these homes. To date, B.E.S.T. has built over twenty new homes for first time home-buyers.
Affordable Rental Housing - Developing good-quality, affordable rental housing is part of B.E.S.T’s mission to improve and ameliorate neighborhood housing options. Currently, B.E.S.T. owns 13 buildings with over 20 units of affordable rental housing with units ranging from one bedroom options to single family units. To view all of our rental options click to open on our neighborhood map, or call BEST to inquire more about our housing availabilities.
Home Repair and Façade Funding - In an effort to help beautify the Bayfront’s housing stock, B.E.S.T. created the Home Repair and Façade grant initiative to supply home owners in the neighborhood with matching grant funding to improve their housing. These improvements can range from painting the trim on a home exterior to replacing a porch or roof. The grant program aim to alleviate costs of exterior home repair. In order to receive B.E.S.T.’s matching funding, the owner must secure contractor bids and provide sufficient documentation. To learn more and apply for this initiative click here.
Home Maintenance - We work with the City of Erie and East Bayfront Watch group to enforce the City of Erie housing codes and keep city-owned parks well maintained and safe for families. In addition to enforcing building codes, we have offered free home repair classes to neighbors, teaching them skills for doing their own home repairs to prevent against possible violations. For further information on code violations and municipal enforcement check out the City of Erie’s code enforcement site here.
Acquisition and Demolition of Blighted Properties - B.E.S.T sets aside funds each year to acquire and demolish abandoned and blighted properties. The vacant lots are then used for public green space where we provide maintenance and upkeep at the property. The rejuvenated lot adds beauty and the new greenery increases the value in the neighborhood. To date, B.E.S.T and its partners have removed and acquired over 45 blighted properties from the neighborhood. This endeavor has been accelerated in recent years with the concerted effort in created a municipal land bank: Erie City Land Bank.
Sustainable Revitalization and Lot Beautification - B.E.S.T. follows the comprehensive neighborhood-wide planning strategies issued by the city, guiding our continued efforts in revitalization and encouraging private investment. Part of that sustainable revitalization involves the creation of public space, greening and converting abandoned lots into welcoming space. In the summer of 2013, the first community garden in the neighborhood was developed on a demolished property at the corner of 4th and Parade Street, with the second garden housed at 3rd and Parade Street. B.E.S.T. has also utilized vacant lots adjacent to our offices to continue our community garden initiative, supplying 16 gardening beds for recent immigrants and residents in the community. In addition to these gardens, B.E.S.T. has worked collectively with Erie Arts and Culture and other nonprofits to create pocket parks in our vacant lots, introducing innovative uses of the lands like urban orchards and murals crafted by local artists.
Erie City Studio - In 2019, B.E.S.T. began working on the Erie City Studio initiative, a multi-organizational effort to usher in Erie’s first urban design studio in the heart of the lower East Bayfront. The Erie City Studio offers a multi-use, civic engagement center for residents and design professionals to connect and collaborate in the municipal planning process. The Urban Design Studio will spearhead designing the neighborhood’s urban public realm, working with the growing number of vacant lots throughout the community.
Outside of our housing and beautification initiatives, B.E.S.T. also supports a range of community building events in our neighborhood. From offering volunteer and employment opportunities to movie nights and Made in Erie Market Place, community plays a central role in bettering our neighborhood.
Community-Building Events - Every summer, B.E.S.T. and the East Bayfront Neighborhood Watch group host the annual National Night Out celebration, an annual event aim to enhance the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community. B.E.S.T. also facilitates the Made in Erie Marketplace, a small business market occurring on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and in the Summer months B.E.S.T. hosts neighborhood outdoor movie nights. Additionally, B.E.S.T. brings Bayfront residents together by hosting quarterly community meetings in an effort to increase neighborhood togetherness. To learn more about our upcoming events and events schedule, click here to view our calendar for dates, times and locations.
Neighborhood Beautification - Throughout the neighborhood, Residents and volunteers plant and maintain several public gardens, picking up debris and helping create a more vibrant community. Our beautification projects cover a large portion of the Bayfront, from the corner of Holland Street and the Bayfront Parkway to Levy Park and the traffic gardens on Parade Street. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer and working in the neighborhood view our Get Involved page to learn about the different ways you can help B.E.S.T.