Landscaping, play equipment, neighborhood signs, and sidewalks have all been a part of a program in Liberty to help residents spruce up their neighborhoods. The city is now looking for 2016 projects for the Neighborhood Improvement Grant program.
The program was started in 2011. At the time, city council members felt there may be needs in neighborhoods that weren’t being addressed in other ways by the city or by the neighborhood associations. The grants, which were inspired by a similar program in Gladstone, allow neighborhoods the opportunity to identify their own needs and partner with the city to get projects completed.
Grant awardees are not selected by city staff or city council, but rather by the Preservation and Development Commission. Projects must benefit the entire neighborhood and be in the public right of way or commonly owned property.
In the Bent Oaks neighborhood, grant funds in 2014 helped renovate, landscape and repair irrigation in two traffic circles near the entrance to the neighborhood. HOA leader Eric Bartlett said the grants were a way to get a project done that had been on the back burner for their group.
“Those islands needed to be renovated for some time because the trees were dying. When we heard there was potential money from the city. We decided it was the time to act,” Bartlett said.
City of Liberty Community Development Manager Jonna Wensel says one of the goals of the project is to encourage neighborhood organizations. Grants must go to organized neighborhood groups. However, Wensel has resources to help a neighborhood get organized. The grants have been awarded in both new and older areas of the city.
“We encourage neighborhoods to be organized for a couple of reasons,” Wensel said. “It’s nice to know your neighbors and coordinate neighborhood watch or cleanup so you can get in touch with each other.
“From the city’s perspective, it’s helpful to have a neighborhood association because a neighborhood has specific need and those can be better communicated to a city if the neighborhood is cohesive and speaking as a whole. It’s the most elemental form of democracy. You can’t get more grassroots than that.”
The projects also help neighbors take more ownership of their area. Many times, HOAs or neighborhood groups go through cycles. For some that have gone dormant, the grants give a good opportunity for new life. The grants have also spurred the formation of at least one new neighborhood group.
Grants can range from $500 to $10,000. A 25 percent match is required from the neighborhood groups for the projects. This year’s grant applications are due on March 15th. Information about the grants is available at the city web site, or by calling Jonna Wensel at 816-439-4537.