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Impact in City Heights: Great Neighborhood Challenge Sparks Civic Engagement

Residents, business owners, artists and community leaders of Azalea Park in City Heights are working to transform Poplar Street into the heart of soul of the neighborhood.

Have you ever traveled through your neighborhood and dreamed about what your community could look like? Perhaps a little less graffiti here, some more lighting there, and a little more art and personality along the main street?

Residents of Azalea Park in City Heights did just that… and then took action.

With the assistance of a $5,000 Great Neighborhood Challenge grant from The San Diego Foundation, the Azalea Park Neighborhood Association embarked on a community-led effort to revitalize Poplar Street.

Poplar Street

The Pop Street Project: HeART of Azalea Park

Poplar Street, a two-lane commercial corridor spanning a half-mile, has presented a multitude of challenges to Azalea Park community members over the years.

Frequent incidents of graffiti, littering and gang violence branded the street as dangerous and undesirable for residents and businesses. Yet, Poplar Street is also a major transportation artery with tremendous potential for providing amenities that promote neighborhood vibrancy and economic diversity.

Azalea Park residents, business owners, artists and community leaders wanted change.

In an effort to evolve Poplar Street into the arts and ecodistrict desired, community members participated in a series of visioning meetings and low budget art and landscape improvements along Poplar Street.

Poplar Street

By starting with a vision and then making small but meaningful changes over time, Poplar Street will rise and take its place as the true heart and soul of Azalea Park. This overall effort is known as the Pop Street Project: HeART of Azalea Park.

“Azalea Park residents deserve a safe and walkable community that offers the services and amenities other neighborhoods have, such as a coffee shop, a yoga studio or a place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. The Pop Street Project will help fill this void,” said Ricardo Moran, president of the Azalea Park Neighborhood Association.

Celebrating the Pop Street Project

Through small-scale, artist-led beautification projects like murals and mosaic street furniture, the Pop Street Project builds community comradery and demonstrates how small actions can have a large impact.

These first steps, though modest, were intentional. Community members understood that the re-making of Poplar Street would not happen overnight. Small, highly visible activities offer opportunities to engage more residents in envisioning the future of Azalea Park.

The Pop Street Project continues to flourish by engaging residents and inspiring the future phases of the Poplar Street revitalization.

Join your fellow San Diegans to celebrate the first year of the Pop Street Project, and get inspired to catalyze change in your community. Perhaps your neighborhood will be next.

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About Vi Calvo

Vi CalvoAs the Community Impact Manager at The San Diego Foundation, Vi works with local governments, nonprofits, academic institutions and community groups to identify and support strategic partnerships throughout the region aligned with Work, Enjoy, Live and Learn (WELL). Vi earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications from UC Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from the University of San Diego.

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