ATLANTIC CITY — When Henrietta Shelton looks at the abandoned row home on Indiana Avenue her organization now owns, she sees an opportunity to transform a Westside neighborhood block.
The walls inside the two-story, three-bedroom home are stripped down to the beams. The exterior is painted white with the numbers 7, 2 and 6 mounted diagonally next to the door frame.
But Shelton, president of the African-American heritage nonprofit Chicken Bone Beach Historical Foundation, sees the building transforming into a year-round jazz institute for youth in the city, a project she and the foundation have been working on for years.
They’re aiming to open in March.
“We’re progressing. We are making some giant steps,” Shelton said. “It’s just going to work out. We have gotten so far.”
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The foundation received the home that sits to the left of Atlantic City Fire Station 3 from the Wells Fargo Foundation in October 2016 and has been seeking funding and contractors to renovate the house since. The group’s board members have been coming up with plans for what they would like the inside of the home to look like.
Shelton’s goal is to create a place that can house a year-round jazz camp and classes for students — dubbed the Youth Institute of Jazz Studies — to teach art and music to low-income neighborhood kids. The space would include a soundproof recording studio upstairs as well as space for classes and community gatherings.
The Chicken Bone Beach Foundation is named for a formerly racially segregated section of the Atlantic City beach limited to the area around Missouri Avenue.
The foundation has been hosting jazz concerts and summer jazz camps for youth in the city for about 20 years, aiming to promote pride in black heritage and jazz as an art form.
She wants the classes to continue year-round, and they were looking for a home base.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and we have always had hurdles,” she said.
Owning the house to create the space is overcoming one hurdle though, Shelton said, but she estimates the project will cost about $200,000, and so far, she estimates they have gotten about $130,000 in donations and grants, including a Community Development Block Grant.
After they gutted the building and pulled out the electricity, they put out a call for bids in August seeking a contractor to complete the renovation and do interior finishes, replace the doors and windows, bathrooms and electricity.
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The property was donated by the bank through its Community and Urban Stabilization Program, which gives properties to organizations that will “improve the neighborhood by eliminating any blight through renovation or demolition of the property,” Crystal Dundas, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, wrote in an email.
Wells Fargo has donated more than 9,000 properties across the country and more than 100 in New Jersey through this program since 2009, she said.
Cortez Martin, a Chicken Bone Beach board member who was born and grew up in Atlantic City, said he thinks the project is needed for the neighborhood that doesn’t see many kids outside any- more.
“This neighborhood is sort of died out right now, and we’re hoping to revitalize this one block and start from there,” Martin said.
Shelton also sees this as an opportunity to spruce up other areas of the block. She is trying to implement a community vegetable garden in the plot of land next to the house and spruce up a small park down the block.
She discussed it with Sylvester Showell, president of the Westside Neighborhood Preservation Association, who said he brought up the idea at their regular meeting and people were on board.
Marlina Abdullah, who lives in the neighborhood and is part of the association, said she thinks a project like this is going to spruce up her community and start a revitalization.
“I think it’s going to change some things,” she said.