Some are small, consisting of just a few steps and a front door. Others are more grand, with a swing or a couple of chairs.
No matter what it looks like, the front porch is like the cover of a book.
One group of Harrisburg residents is looking to redesign these covers to make a better story for the Uptown neighborhood.
The East Uptown Front Porch Project is a grassroots organization of local realtors, business owners and neighbors with a mission of restoring community to a section of the city that, they believe, has been overlooked. They’re starting with the front porch.
“Uptown is in pretty rough shape and hasn’t received any attention from any group in a significant way in a while,” said founder Beck Joyner.
The group is starting by renovating 23 homeowners’ front porches on N. 6th Street, which Joyner sees as the main corridor through Uptown. Some homes may need contractors to fix up roofs or other structural problems, while others may only need new paint and furniture, but they’re prepared for it all.
Joyner was inspired by the Allison Hill MulDer Square project, a community development program to provide affordable housing in the neighborhood. But while that project had the resources of the city and an established nonprofit behind it, the Front Porch Project is relying heavily on volunteers such as churches and community groups for support.
“This is a big deal in bringing a sense of pride to the community,” said volunteer Kamilo Bryan, co-owner of ZTK Improvements LLC.
Bryan decided to get involved with the initiative not only because of his expertise in home improvements, but because Uptown is his home.
“It’s where I live,” he said. “It’s where my granddad lives; it’s where my father lives.”
Joyner and Bryan hope the project encourages homeownership in a neighborhood that can often be transient. However, Bryan noted the importance he finds in keeping the demographics similar in the neighborhood, as well.
While the improvements are free to homeowners, Joyner only asked one thing of them—to spend time on their front porches. This, she said, will be a start in fostering a sense of community in Uptown and will “pull people together.”
“The front porch is a start,” Bryan said.
The improvements will begin in April, but in the meantime, the East Uptown Front Porch Project team is applying for grants and finding partners and donations.
The team doesn’t plan to stop at 6th Street either. They hope to extend their reach to other sections of Uptown in the future.
“The goal is to really have a quick, visible win to inspire community,” Joyner said.
For more information, visit The East Uptown Front Porch Project’s Facebook page.