The exterior of Arts West in Athens on a sunny day

West Side Talks Potential For The Future

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ATHENS (WOUB) — The West Side of Athens is looking at new ways to show its potential after a school levy put West Elementary’s fate in question, and a shooting brought negative attention to the area.

Residents and business owners on the West Side are coming together to possibly bring back the Neighborhood Association and spur more community investment in the area.

The discussion began this week in the West Side’s Facebook page. Members of the page were already bringing up ideas for the West Elementary building after the Athens City School District levy passed earlier this month.

The levy approved a payment structure for a master plan in which the elementary schools will be rearranged, with two schools housing preschool to third grades, one on the East Elementary site and one on the Morrison Gordon grounds. A renovated facility on The Plains will hold grades four through six.

Residents of the street brought up ideas of making the school building a community center or a maker space, or even a shelter for the Athens Farmers Market.

But then a man was shot in an apartment building on West Washington Street, and the west side had a negative source of attention.

Six-year West side resident Mike Linscott thinks his neighbors should take the “emotional energy” spurred by that incident and use it to improve the neighborhood as a whole.

Linscott, who works for the city, brought up the idea of restarting the Westside Neighborhood Association while helping the city with its comprehensive plan strategy.

“One of the things that I was thinking about as that was happening is that, specifically the East Side neighborhoods, they have very active community associations and ours had kind of lost its vitality,” Linscott said. “And so it seemed like maybe if we got the band back together, we could come together as a community to address some of those issues and maybe be better insulated if stuff like this happens again.”

Linscott brought up the idea of restarting the Neighborhood Association in a thread on the Facebook page. This led the co-owners of West End Ciderhouse to offer up their space as a meeting place. With that, a community meeting was planned for Sunday.

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson plans to attend the meeting, and hopes to hear from citizens positive ideas about what they would like to see in the neighborhood. He said there are already successful businesses in the area, and a thriving community, but he also sees room to grow.

“I kind of see, you know, the West End as being an area to where we could, in the future, revitalize that area. I’d love to see that happen as well,” Patterson said.

Linscott hopes people are energized to attend the meeting on Sunday, but he also said improvement in the community will only come about if the energy continues in the longterm.

“It’s really easy when there’s a shooting in your neighborhood to be like, ‘yeah, we gotta do stuff,’ but when it’s three months later and you need to wake up early to go to a meeting or maybe you don’t get to go home right away because you have to go to this meeting…that’s a different struggle entirely,” Linscott said.

Residents and those interested in joining the discussion are meeting at 10 a.m. Sunday at West End Ciderhouse.