CINCINNATI - Central Avenue in Hamilton's historic 2nd Ward is a mixture of well-kept homes and businesses next to boarded up buildings. But, residents in that neighborhood are ready to change that beginning next week in an effort to bring the vibrancy back to the 2nd Ward.
Perry Shazier grew up in the area.
"I walked these streets and these alleys my entire life," said Shazier. "We had a grocery store on the corner. My uncle had a health clinic there on the corner."
That was 30 years ago. Today, there are a few homeowners who still keep beautiful yards. And, Central Avenue is the home to the popular Mahogany's Restaurant.
But, many buildings and homes are boarded up, abandoned or need repair.
So, beginning Friday, June 22, Shazier begins a project to revitalize the 2nd Ward. More than 100 volunteers are expected to cut grass, trim hedges and beautify the 2nd Ward.
"I've lived around here in this area all my life and for him to come in and try to improve it I think is wonderful," said Phyllis Daniels, a resident.
But, it's not just sprucing up. Shazier is promoting economic development in the community.
The 2nd Ward Project is in the process of becoming a non-profit organization. It is comprised of about a dozen residents and business owners. And, it has been working behind the scenes to encourage large and small businesses to relocate to the area.
"I had a young lady approach me about a pizzeria, an ice cream parlor, a daycare. So we've had interest," said Shazier.
At Plush Cuts Barber Shop, barbers are optimistic that the area can be improved.
"Definitely," said 'Ink' Brundidge at the shop. "I've been here for five years and I've prospered. I don't see why anybody else couldn't do the same."
Shazier said attracting a grocery store and gas station to the corner of Central Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard would greatly benefit the neighborhood.
He said he has approached some grocery store chains about moving to the Hamilton neighborhood.
"If we bring in those things, gas stations, small grocery stores, then we're also adding jobs but also giving people something that they need," said Shazier
Michael Neal owns Neal's Cafe', a popular barbecue spot along Central. He said the revitalization project will also help encourage young people in the neighborhood.
"(It will) give our youth some visual of what kind of community, what city they live in and what it can be," said Neal.
He said he hopes to bring jobs to the area by producing his barbecue sauce for national distribution.
Meanwhile, Shazier said the city of Hamilton has been supportive of his efforts. The city will provide some of the items needed for the kick-off event.
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