“In the nineties, you didn’t stop your car near Patterson Park because of the drug dealers and prostitutes,” says Michael Harmel, who owns Three, a restaurant across the street from the park. Many of the brick and stone row houses bordering the park were boarded up, burned out, or rented on the cheap. Beginning in the late nineties, grassroots efforts began to turn the park and the adjacent neighborhood from an eyesore into an oasis.
Future restoration of the community rests on the struggle between the housing downturn and energized homeowners rallying behind the community. “You’ve heard of sweat equity? We have fret equity,” says neighborhood association vice president Kimi Aghevli. “You move in and think, ‘What have I done?’ Then your neighbors reach out and bring you into the social circle, lifting this neighborhood house by house.”