The Bayfront East Side Taskforce (B.E.S.T.) was started over 40 years ago, during the commercial revitalization of Erie’s historic Lower East Bayfront district. The organization was Erie’s first non-profit focused on a single neighborhood and continues to be an invaluable steward in the neighborhood. With the integral help of our donors, partners, and volunteers, B.E.S.T. has collectively joined forces with the community to create the best place in Erie.
The central mission of B.E.S.T. is to improve the quality of life for neighborhood residents and assure a stable, desirable working environment for businesses and their employees. Our central themes are: organizing the community, building a positive neighborhood image, increasing neighborhood pride, and beautifying the neighborhood. We also strive to promote home ownership, improve communication, and serve in a concerted and collaborative role with local government. We work with many partners in our community to improve safety and build stability, fostering a sense of community.
Our vision here at B.E.S.T. is that the East Bayfront neighborhood will continue to build up quality of life, better housing, and great businesses. To accomplish this, we work with partners located in our neighborhood. We involve landlords in the community organizing process, and we provide neighborhood-benefitting, nonprofit housing development, serving as a central information resource on housing and development. We serve as a collaborator where community partners and volunteers can come together, using their talents and skills to help improve the livelihood throughout the neighborhood.
B.E.S.T. was originally established in 1978 with a primary focus of coordinating the extensive restoration of Erie's historic Federal Row House. The housing project complemented commercial expansion efforts in the area spearheaded by Erie Insurance and Hamot Medical Center. After the redevelopment, B.E.S.T. was dormant up until the end of the century.
Beginning in the early 1990's, Erie's East Bayfront neighborhood saw continual improvements through the efforts led by the East Bayfront Neighborhood Watch, a grassroots, all-volunteer organization of residents committed to curtailing urban blight and creating a more vibrant, dynamic neighborhood that would be attractive to new homeowners. The organization’s actions were laudable, but needed a large-scale approach to galvanize change and revitalization. In the mid-1998, the taskforce's corporate partners, led by Erie Insurance Group and UPMC Hamot, began to recharge B.E.S.T. to augment the Neighborhood Watch group's efforts. In 2000, B.E.S.T. hired a full-time executive director and obtained a formal 501(c)3 status to formalize and guide the organization’s efforts.
Over the past 20 years, B.E.S.T.’s finances have grown over threefold, guiding this investment back into the community. The once solely redevelopment organization broadened its area past Erie's Federal Row homes, now overseeing the neighborhood from Front Street up to 6th Street, and from Holland Street over to the East Bayfront Parkway. In recent decades, B.E.S.T. has spearheaded employment initiatives, commercial endeavors, and greatly expanded affordable renting options for community residents. Today, B.E.S.T. stewards over 16 acres of land in an effort to further housing opportunities and beautifying the neighborhood and strengthening our community.
Below are some of B.E.S.T.’s accomplishments:
- Development of over twenty new homes for low to moderate income, first-time homeowners
- Creation of safe, affordable rental property for renters in the East Bayfront neighborhood
- Organization of neighborhood clean-ups, park beautification and volunteer efforts
- Grants and façade beautification resources to homeowners in the East Bayfront
- Offer summer employment opportunities for neighborhood youth
- Development of commercial spaces, offering integral community services
- Coordination and support of the East Bayfront Neighborhood Watch group