As the North End goes through demographic shifts, it is important to keep in mind what makes people feel welcome and unwelcome. This is a notion that can also feel very abstract to people - what makes one person feel welcome is different than what makes another person feel welcome. In an effort to gain a better understanding of what makes people feel welcome and unwelcome in their own neighborhood, these two topics were brought up to participants in a number of community engagement sessions.
The people of the North End were identified as most important aspect of neighborhood culture that made people feel welcome in the North End. Respondents described that the diversity of the neighborhood, which was earlier defined as one of the things that made this neighborhood unique, was also one of the things that made them feel the most welcome in this place. The acceptance of different lifestyles made residents feel welcome, as did the social relationships and bonds amongst neighbors. “Front porch culture” and the community presence of churches like Embrace and Total Grace Baptist Church were also highlighted as key producers of the feeling of welcomeness. Physical characteristics of the neighborhood that made North End residents feel welcomed were the presence of community parks, businesses, the accessibility and walkability of the area, and historic buildings.
Responses regarding what made North End residents feel unwelcome in their own place tended to be more infrequent, but longer than the responses about what made people welcome.
Respondents felt that the poor quality of sidewalks, run-down properties, and trash on the streets make people feel unwelcome. Fences that are too close to sidewalks, such as the Kentucky Utilities property on the 700 block of North Limestone, and the large privacy fence on the 600 block of North Limestone made people feel that they were unwelcome. Several people also responded that not seeing people that looked like them made them uncomfortable.
Residents indicated that high crime rates make them feel unsafe, but that signage that described “you are being watched” and other anti-crime methods made them feel equally uncomfortable. Many respondents indicated that being perceived as an outsider in their own neighborhood make them feel very unwelcome - some indicated that new residents moving in did not engage with them on the street, or looked at them like they were out of place in their own neighborhood.
New cultural amenities that serve a younger clientele made many respondents feel uncomfortable. Another trend that appeared in the answers had a racial dynamic - with a few respondents saying that the presence of younger white people makes them feel uncomfortable.
Despite a number of residents indicating they felt unwelcome in their own neighborhood, there was significant hope for bringing the community together.
Neighbors wanted more spaces to gather together, building on the already existing Park infrastructure. These ideas included building a stage in Duncan Park and an activity space in Castlewood Park. Residents also wanted tax incentives to keep people in their homes, and heritage celebrationsto showcase the different cultures and nationalities that exist within the neighborhood. They wanted to widen sidewalks so that people have more room to stop and talk with each other as they pass, or to stop and talk with people on their front porches. They wanted more public transportation infrastructure and local employment programs to encourage businesses to hire from within the neighborhood.
Neighbors wanted less “outsiders coming in and more initiative from longtime residents.” They wanted more family-friendly activities and music venues that are more family-oriented. They wanted opportunities to share differing opinions and beliefs in a safe and respectful environment, and more events and festivals to build pride of place, and pride of community.
These ideas, centered around bringing together North End residents, could help strengthen assets that already exist in the North , growing bonds between different types of social groups that exist side-by-side in the North End.