In 2003 the Melville Trust made an original “big bet” when it purchased the historic Lyceum on Lawrence Street in Frog Hollow and renovated it as a center for housing policy and community development. The Lyceum also serves as the home base for the Partnership for Strong Communities, the housing policy and advocacy nonprofit founded by the Trust in 1998. The Partnership promotes proven solutions to homelessness, supportive and affordable housing, and community development.
When The Melville Charitable Trust first focused on Frog Hollow, one of the nation’s most impoverished Census tracts, its vision was unambiguous: an investment that would produce healthy children learning and playing, parents parlaying opportunity and training into personal success and stable families, and residents transforming their neighborhood into a model of vitality and shared experience.
From the Lyceum investment there sprang a series of additional community investments by the Trust, including:
- The purchase of the 98-unit Billings Forge apartments
- Renovations to several nearby properties
- The launch of Firebox
These investments total over $20 million, and have reaped returns in the form of expanded access to quality housing, healthy food, and employment and job training for local residents. The Melville Trust retains ownership of Firebox, whose profits are earmarked for Billings Forge Community Works.
The objective is joining our neighbors to make progress with them, not simply trying to do it for them. The Trust created Billings Forge Community Works to make that happen. And that is what we are achieving, not just in Frog Hollow but in new areas of Hartford, too.
We at BFCW have focused not on what our neighborhoods are missing, but what is already there. We have built on the skills and vitality of talented residents to construct an infrastructure of promise. We are coordinating efforts to develop leaders within the community and building bridges to resources and friends outside of it. We have learned lessons and perfected methods in Frog Hollow that we are now employing across the city. We have partnered with wise and experienced community leaders to shape programs serving children and families. And we have used the delicious benefits of fresh food to spur investment, support good health and future employment for the entire community.