With the city of Charlotte's help, Madison Park residents are transforming an area that once was an eyesore and the target of vandals into a manicured neighborhood attraction.
For years, residents of the SouthPark neighborhood off Tyvola Road had to look at the graffiti-splattered old Pinewood Elementary along Seneca Place, across the street from the new Pinewood Elementary.
Last August, when the city leveled the dilapidated building and planted grass, the neighborhood decided to revamp the landscape.
Lisa Charde submitted an application on behalf of Madison Park for the Keep Charlotte Beautiful 2011 Adopt-a-Neighborhood program, which supplies materials and manpower for select beautification projects.
Charde requested improvements to a rose garden near the site of the old school, which was planted by a neighbor in the early 1990s.
The garden, about 40 feet in diameter, consists of peach, pink and mauve rose bushes, each spaced a few feet apart. Two medium-size trees sit on either side of the garden, but there is no bench and the grass is in disrepair. A handful of tree limbs act as a makeshift border on one side - an attempt to ward off lawnmowers.
In the application, Madison Park residents proposed they mulch the garden, fill in with more rose bushes and create a few crushed-rock walking paths.
"It will just be a nice, quiet, meditative sort of place to come," said resident Cheryl Furr, 56.
Garden construction will start in May, followed by planting in the fall, said Wendy Gigante, executive director of Keep Charlotte Beautiful.
There is no fee associated with the program; however, residents must volunteer to help with and maintain the project.
Past Keep Charlotte Beautiful projects have involved landscaping for a neighborhood entrance, a revamped common area and painting a home where the neighborhood homeowner's association met.
Eighteen Charlotte neighborhoods applied this year, and the subcommittee narrowed the field to three, then visited the sites.
A number of Madison Park residents met the committee at the site.
Last week, the neighborhood found out it had been chosen.
"This is a way to help them reach a goal, a common area of neighborhood improvement," said Gigante. "It helps them rally the neighborhood. ... The value of volunteerism and the labor is much more than would ever be spent on materials."
A few weeks ago, the neighborhood also submitted a 172-page grant application to the city, requesting the city help revitalize the area where the old Pinewood Elementary once stood, turning it into Madison Central Park.
The new park would include a nine-hole disc golf course, birdhouses and walking paths. The rose garden would be a focal point.
The park proposal already has generated support, said Homeowner Association President Martin Doss, 51.
Several landscaping professionals and local businesses, including Coca-Cola, Home Depot and Blackhawk Hardware, have donated $25,000.
If the proposed Madison Central Park is approved, the city will match that funding through "sweat" equity, paying $20.85 for every volunteer hour.
Doss said they'll get the official word by mid-June.
JoAnn Means, 58, said she thinks the park will contribute to the area's revitalization effort of recent years.
"Newer, younger people are coming in ... their houses are being worked on, remodeled, enlarged," said Means. "It's a way of supporting that ... and it honors the old school as well."