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Date: February 13, 2017
What once was a scrap metal yard on the corner of 14th Street and Cherry Avenue SE in Canton has since been transformed into a community gathering space for area neighbors.
The Luntz Iron & Steel Co. used the property as a metal recycling facility decades ago until they moved the operation to another location in Canton. While the property sat vacant for many years, Greg Luntz and his family recently gifted the land to the South East Neighborhood Association (SENA).
“We wanted to create a nice area for our neighborhood and saw potential in this area,” said Deborah Burt, president of SENA.
SENA was preparing for a neighborhood cleanup and beautification project and wanted to find out who owned the parcels before touching the vacant property. After going
downtown to the Stark County Auditor’s Office, they connected with Greg Luntz to talk about the area and their vision for what this property could be in the future.
“We weren’t anticipating that his family would give us this property,” said Deborah. “We just got to talking and he said, ‘let me tell you what, I’m going to talk to my family and see what we can do for your neighborhood.’”
Greg is a member of Stark Community Foundation’s Board of Directors and knew of the great work neighborhood associations are doing and the impact they are having in our community.
“Right away, my family agreed to donate the property to the neighborhood association,” said Greg. “We couldn’t think of a better use for that property.”
During the transformation process, neighborhood volunteers and community members came together to remove shrubbery, pull weeds, cut down trees, plant flower beds, install a fence and paint tree stumps. Grant funding through Stark Community Foundation’s Neighborhood Partnership Grant Program was used to purchase four new benches, giving residents a place to sit while they wait for the bus or to relax and enjoy the new space. A new entrance sign was also purchased and installed.
“We were so ecstatic, honestly truly floored, that the Luntz family was willing to gift us this property,” added Deborah. “It really made a positive change in our neighborhood. Residents are calling it their ‘Comfort Zone.’”
A dedication and ribbon cutting of the 'Comfort Zone' took place on July 21, followed by a back-to-school backpack giveaway for area children.
“I was thrilled and shocked,” said Greg when asked what he thought when he first saw the new space. “It was a huge transformation, and now it’s a space that everyone in the neighborhood can utilize. It’s a testament to what hard work and collaboration can do.”
Deborah added, “We’ve had an awesome response to our efforts. To the point where when people would see us working on the area, they would stop by and ask questions, compliment us on the space and even offer to help.”
For members of SENA, this is only the beginning. They hope to decorate the space for key holidays and continue to add more flower beds and seating areas.