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Turning Main Drag into Main Street
By: Jaylene Moseley

For years, much of Lincoln Avenue was just a neglected thoroughfare connecting Altadena and Northwest Pasadena—a way to get from here to there quickly. The commercial properties that fronted the avenue looked abandoned. Their windows were boarded up, the buildings were not maintained, and there was little signage to indicate what went on in the buildings and behind the grim looking chain link fences covered with tarp. Residents living in the tree-lined neighborhoods of single-family homes on either side of the avenue were angered by the neglect. The commercial interests provided little in the way of local services, nor did they hire locally.

Today, revitalization efforts—driven by a partnership of neighbors, private development, the City of Pasadena and business owners—are transforming the dreary traffic artery and instilling community pride.

Welcoming street pole banners mark Lincoln Village, a thriving pedestrian corridor between Idaho to the south and Woodbury to the north. Here you will find Palm Plaza, a commercial development of the J. L. Moseley Co., Inc., completed in 2004.  It consists of four separate office and retail buildings, including a refurbished 1926 church, connected by courtyard parking and bordered by 30’ tall date palms. The project is a culmination of many many community meetings, and of my walking door to door to meet residents to find out what they wanted for their neighborhood and to gain their support and guidance. The wish list included stores, restaurants and social service agencies that met the needs of the primarily African American and Latino community and offered employment opportunities; visual enhancements such as landscaping and improved building façades; and a sensitivity to building height, compatible with neighborhood and motorist visibility concerns.

Neighboring property owners have improved their properties as well and have recruited new tenants with a commitment to community concerns

These and many other buildings and storefront improvements have helped turn the Lincoln Village into a popular community destination that radiates a small town charm.  But developing and improving properties and securing tenants who serve a residential community is only one side of the coin. The other is strong, coordinated, ongoing community participation.

The Lincoln Avenue Task Force was formed in 2002 on the heels of the community outreach effort for Palm Plaza. The grassroots collaboration is committed to making Lincoln Avenue a positive environment for pedestrians, businesses and residents. Composed of over 50 community members who range in age from 8 to 80-something, the Task Force has a heavy youth involvement—many are students from John Muir High School. The group meets monthly to identify priorities and take action. In addition to focusing on improved streetscape façades and tenants who serve the community, the Task Force has advocated for and succeeded in obtaining a critical intersection signal, financing for pedestrian scale street lights, increased speed monitoring by the Police Department, and improved maintenance along Lincoln, such as tree pruning, graffiti and trash removal, and weed abatement.

Stakeholder input through the efforts of the Lincoln Avenue Task Force has created a unified vision for a revitalized Lincoln Avenue. Students, residents, nonprofit organizations, businesses, commercial property owners, John Muir High School and City and County have all worked together in a wonderful spirit of cooperation and goodwill. As a way to show our appreciation, celebrate our progress and invite new friends to experience the neighborhood’s vibrancy, the community holds an annual festival.  Hundreds of community members—“villagers”—turn out for the popular celebration.

This year’s Third Annual Lincoln Village Festival will be held on Saturday, November 12. NATHA has taken the lead in bringing business and residential neighbors together to plan the festivities. Following a Pancake Breakfast at 9 am, the Festival will run from 10 am to 4 pm. The family-oriented event will feature music, food, vendors and fun activities for all. Please call 626/ 794-5889 for more information. We hope you will come and join us!