By JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Published: 2/19/2012 4:21 AM
Last Modified: 2/19/2012 8:31 AM
The board of directors for the Kendall Whittier Main Street program had signed off on its last check with its last dollars going to the nonprofit organization’s payroll Tuesday.
“We were trying to come up with some creative ways to get from February to April,” when the organization could hold a large fundraiser, said board Chairwoman Elizabeth Howell.
But calls to City Councilor Blake Ewing and the mayor’s office led to a lifeline for the community-building organization last week, when the program’s leaders spoke to councilors about longer-term funding.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett was able to contract with the program to provide $25,000 to keep it running through June, when city officials will be able to look at more funding through the city budget.
“The Kendall Whittier Main Street program is a perfect example of dedicated Tulsans interested in revitalizing their neighborhood and promoting job growth in a historic part of our city,” Bartlett said. “The Main Street program has been successful in many cities across the state, and we look forward to working with the Kendall Whittier Main Street program to help spur economic development in the community and along historic Route 66.”
The mayor’s move potentially saved the program and was also the city’s first funding contribution to the nearly 2-year-old organization.
Kendall Whittier Main Street is the only program of its kind in Oklahoma that had never received funding from its host city, officials said.
“The commitment is there, which is great,” Howell said.
“We look forward to collaborating and working together … It’s a wonderful partnership that is beginning.”
The Oklahoma Main Street program is run through the state Department of Commerce and helps create local programs to nurture economic and community growth to failing historical areas.
Several dozen Main Street programs are operational in Oklahoma and thrive in small towns where a dilapidated and unused main street may need a framework to grow the community, said Linda Barnett, Oklahoma Main Street Center director.
The program was extended to reach urban areas that are in need of revitalization several years ago, she said.
Other successful programs in Oklahoma, such as Tulsa’s Red Fork Main Street and Oklahoma City’s Stockyards City, got about a third of their funding from host cities when they began, Howell said.
Most cities continue funding the program due to its level of reinvestment in the city, Howell said.
The city budget was tight in 2010 when Kendall Whittier Main Street began.
The program stayed afloat during its first two years through private funding, including a large anonymous donation, Howell said.
That money ran out last week, Howell said. The Kendall Whittier program helps an area from 11th Street to Independence Street and from just west of Lewis Avenue to the University of Tulsa.
Ewing, whose council district includes the Kendall Whittier area, said the Main Street officials approached him recently as they ran out of money and asked him for help.
Ewing then made an appeal to Bartlett, who made temporary funding available until the program can receive funding through the city’s official budget process for the next fiscal year, officials said.
“All of these entities working together to build a neighborhood is something special,” Ewing told councilors this week about the need to find funding for the program.
“From an economic standpoint, I don’t know what we could do that would be more bang for our buck.”
Howell credited Ewing for leading the charge to get the program’s first funding from the city and the mayor for finding an avenue to keep them going.
“It’s been a real positive turn of events,” she said.