Thursday, January 5, 2012
Martin Street: changed neighborhood
By SUE WATSON
A street adjacent to the Rust College campus that long needed attention has a new facelift.
Martin Street, named by the late mayor Sam Coopwood after the originator of the neighborhood, has been restored, complete with brick sidewalks and brick fencing. About 13 homes were rebuilt or renovated on the street through a grant obtained by Rust College to upgrade neighboring streets near the college.
Lula Dukes was one of the first to buy a lot from Isaac H. Martin, who had purchased some land to develop in the area and who also lived there sometime during the late 1940s. Her house now faces Isaac L. Martin’s home, and is one of those that was restored.
Lula Dukes is very proud of her improved home, said her daughter Sharon Allen, who was present at the dedication of the project.
“She just loves it to death,” Allen said of her mother. “She just finished up Christmas decorations.”
The new wrought-iron fence is adorned with garlands and red bows.
Willie Mallory has lived on Martin Street for about 30 years. He loves the neighborhood and the narrow street.
“It’s good to see and good to have,” Mallory said.
The narrow street does not bother him a bit.
“If it was any wider, it would be an expressway,” he said.
Only about four or five properties on the street did not participate because the owners had to live in their homes in order to be eligible for the home rehabilitation. Houses that were rented out were not eligible.
“Mayor Sam Coopwood talked to my daddy and said, ‘We are going to name it Martin Street,’” said Isaac L. Martin, a minister who owns the lot his home stands on and a vacant lot adjacent to it.
He said he is proud of the upgrade in the neighborhood and he had small trees and bushes removed from the lot next door to improve the neighborhood and make it safer, he said.
In opening remarks, Mayor Andre’ DeBerry thanked Rust College for partnering with the city to improve the housing in the area – a blighted neighborhood that was eligible for the grant because it was near the historically black college.
President David Beckley agreed and thanked the city for partnering with the college to rebuild the homes in the area.
“We were pleased to get the grant and have money to do three houses now,” he said. “We need these houses to help the city and I thank the residents for taking care of their property.”
Clencie Cotton, head of Rust College Community Development Corporation, received credit for obtaining the grant through HUD.
The first grant was for $250,000, Beckley said, and residents thought the money was going to be divided among them when the first community meeting was called.
“They came with their hand out,” Beckley quipped.
“I think I helped make an understanding on that,” Martin said.
Martin elaborated, saying, “This is really a nice job and came out better than I thought. We are all just pleased to have it come out the way it did.”
DeBerry said the city wants to provide space for residents and visitors to park off the street.
The driveways are narrow, as is the street, and there is room for only one vehicle at a time in the driveways.
Martin said with the new look on the street, he wants to do what he can to make his vacant lot look good.
“We want to keep it lawn-mower clean,” he said. “We want it to look decent here. Somebody has got to stand for an example. We need cooperation from the city to clean up the back side (the city’s side of the lot near Spring Hollow Park).”
And Martin has a mystery he would like solved. There is a mound of dirt in the back of his vacant lot near the property line that has some bricks cropping out. He thinks it could be a private grave and would like it checked out, he said.
“It is just a mystery I would like solved,” he said.
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