Our West Bayfront Launched with $1,675,000 in Contributions from Community Partners

Posted: January 6, 2017

Our West Bayfront (OWB), a new community organization, will begin economic and community development efforts on Erie's lower west side thanks to a $1.675 million commitment from UPMC Health Plan, Marquette Savings Bank, Erie Insurance and Gannon University.

Created under the aegis of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development's Neighborhood Assistance Program, the funding from the community partners will launch Our West Bayfront's efforts to address blight remediation and housing improvement, enhance safety and security, and transform public greenspaces. The quality of life in Erie's West Bayfront neighborhoods will be elevated through civic involvement, thoughtful development, historical preservation and neighborhood pride.

The 843-acre area served by OWB is bounded by the Bayfront Connector to the west, W. 12th St. to the south, Sassafras Street to the east and Presque Isle Bay to the north, and is home to more than 13,000 residents and more than 4,500 structures housing families, businesses, organizations, schools and other entities.

Our West Bayfront was formed in 2016 with guidance from neighborhood residents and community partners, including Gannon University, Housing and Neighborhood Development Service (HANDS), National Fuel Gas, the Neighborhood Resource Organization, Neighborhood Watch Council and United Way of Erie County.

After an extensive process of community outreach and gathering information from residents and stakeholders that began in 2015, last year OWB released a Community Plan that would create a road map for the people of the West Bayfront to guide the area's growth in a manner consistent with their goals. The OWB plan presents a focused approach to reversing recent trends of disinvestment and disconnection, and identifying a new path to a sustainable future.

This plan was organized and positioned to work within the City of Erie's Comprehensive Plan and Community Decision-Making Guide, "Erie Refocused," which designates the Our West Bayfront area as one of two neighborhoods included as part of the plan's core strengthening strategy.

"This commitment by the four community partners is a testament to the dedication they have in making positive change in the West Bayfront area," said OWB executive director Anna Frantz. "Along with the energy and initiative of the area's residents, this financial contribution is an essential component to begin the work of neighborhood revitalization and economic development, and is one for which OWB is very grateful."

Sean Dugan, vice president of recruiting and community outreach at Erie Insurance, said, "This is a demonstration of our commitment to our hometown, as well as the Erie Refocused plan. Supporting organizations such as Our West Bayfront helps to build a vibrant community."

"Moving the City of Erie forward will take strategic projects like the West Bayfront Plan that aligns with the City's Comprehensive Plan," said Michael B. Edwards, chief executive officer of Marquette Savings Bank. "As Erie's hometown bank, we felt it was important to help bring the West Bayfront Plan to life with a long-term commitment."

"UPMC Health Plan and UPMC Hamot are pleased to support the Our West Bayfront project, which plays such an important part in strengthening the community," said Scott Lammie, UPMC Health Plan's chief financial officer. "We want to thank Gannon University for their leadership with this initiative. This project and our commitment to the Bayfront East Side Task Force helps us fulfill one of our missions at UPMC Health Plan-to improve the health of the communities that we serve." UPMC Health Plan made a six-year commitment to OWB.