More than 150 members of the Loyola and greater Baltimore communities packed the University’s McGuire Hall on Oct. 6 to discuss findings and next steps stemming from the Loyola is Listening project, an initiative designed to explore the strengths and challenges affecting the York Road neighborhoods just east of Loyola’s Evergreen campus. The project aims to help the University identify the best ways for it to play a positive role in the future of the area, engagement which is a key component of the University’s strategic plan.
While the research and discussion revealed community members valued the area’s diversity, sense of community, history, and convenience, it also uncovered a desire for improvements and changes in four key areas: unifying divisions related to race, socioeconomic background, and other factors; safety; revitalizing the commercial strip; and supporting neighborhood youth. The University has decided to focus its initial efforts in three areas—strengthening the commercial corridor, youth development, and building civic capacity by lending its voice and influence to ongoing community efforts.
Loyola has established a task force to advance each of these priorities, and has dedicated an AmeriCorps VISTA member to focus full-time on the York Road initiative. In addition, the Oct. 6 event closed with the University asking all those in attendance to volunteer for at least one element of the initiative, projects ranging from business and commercial development assistance to neighborhood cleanups to updating the community’s Strategic Neighborhood Action Plan, a document intended to outline neighborhood needs and keep City officials and agencies up to date and aware of these priorities.
The Loyola is Listening findings are the result of more than a year of research and planning by a University-wide committee, in close collaboration with members of the York Road communities.
“While we were committed to engaging with the communities along York Road, we knew we needed to educate ourselves first,” said Terrence Sawyer, Loyola’s vice president for administration. “We want our involvement in the neighborhood to be a true partnership with residents, business owners, community leaders, law enforcement, and other non-profit organizations.”
The listening project sessions, held earlier this year, paired York Road community members with teams of Loyola faculty and staff trained to ask an extensive series of questions about what the community members liked about their neighborhoods and what they would like to change, the services and amenities they would like to add, and their perspectives on Loyola and its role in the community.
Additional information on project findings and detailed data are available at www.loyola.edu/listening.
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