Know Your Neigborhood: Bella Vista

post by Erica Minutella

The Bella Vista Neighbors Association (BVNA) has been around since 1992, but it’s seen a lot of changes since the early years. Originally formed as a neighborhood town watch, the volunteer organization now oversees a number of efforts, from zoning to planning local events.

We spoke with Executive Director Eugene Desyatnik about what exactly the association does, and how neighbors can get more involved in their local community.

Erica: What sort of programs does the Bella Vista Neighbors Association offer for residents? And how can community members get involved in helping out?

Eugene: Community members are always welcome to get involved with virtually anything we have to offer. That involves a big range of things for all ages and interests. We have social events. We have programming that is more informational in nature. And then we have committees that do certain work, like plan transportation and zoning, weigh in on certain matters like historic preservation, or find a new focal point for a pop-up garden. Our social life is about families. We had a movie night recently for kids at the REC center, the other night we had a classical music concert. There are really different sets of people here, which is good because we’re reaching everybody at this point.

What other resources can neighbors turn to in order to get to know their community?

It all depends on their interests, but there’s so many things. We have rich cultural institutions, like the Da Vinci Art Alliance, Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. A lot of people here are families, who might be interested in just going to the library and hearing various events there, going to the REC center, the concerts we have at the park every Friday in June. We have beautiful parks throughout the town lines. In the fall, we have all kinds of after school opportunities they might explore and connect up with the elementary schools. If you’re single, there’s a lot of neighborhood bars and restaurants. There’s so many I don’t even know where to start.

Photo of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.

How can community members keep on top of upcoming events being hosted by BVNA?

Social media is the most frequently updated – things are going to be there first. Our newsletter comes out once a week, it’s a fantastic rundown of things that are going on in the neighborhood. Not just events, but if there’s a new development, or a new Indego station, or a new playground at a school, we try to cover all those things. We also have a couple of times a year where we publish a print newsletter as well.

And how can neighbors give back to the community they live in?

I think everybody has different things that are important to them. We provide just one avenue for people to give back. Anybody that has an interest in clean streets, transportation, safe streets, planning happy hours or kids events – we’ve got that covered. There’s people who are interested in land use and development, there’s the zoning committee that reviews the proposals that come up. We try to bring everybody together to exchange what the other committees are working on and get a flavor of what’s going on in the neighborhood.

Our annual open house tour is another event where people are welcome to get involved. We have a couple of people who have done it in the past that aren’t going to be able to take on the whole thing, so there’s an opportunity for other people to come onboard. It’s a great fundraiser for the neighborhood. The ticket sales go towards funding our operating expenses, such as phones and website, insurance. All the glamorous aspects of running an organization.

Why should neighbors support their local resources, like the Da Vinci Art Alliance for example?

I think the most important thing people have to remember is that there are rotating exhibitions. The same with the Fleisher. Go in a couple months later and there’s something else to do. It’s ever-changing. And it’s not a big committment to pop in. It’s there, it’s open, you don’t have to come for a long time, but if you like what you see stick around. And then they have special programs that attract people from all over the city. You may not be interested in the space, but the programming might appeal to you. So it’s always good to keep an eye out for things that are going on.

Photo of Da Vinci Art Alliance.

Now finally, what makes Bella Vista unique as a neighborhood?

I think it’s a combination of walkability, being close to the city, and at the same time having our own unique community feel. Everybody gets along. We have old-time neighbors who lived here their whole lives and are in their 80s and 90s and are interacting with other families and children riding by on bikes. It’s one of those great places where everybody really talks to everybody and knows their neighbors. It’s a big city but we have a community feel. There are great schools, low crime. We recently got voted as the best neighborhood to live – and we believe it.

Would you like to know more about living in Bella Vista? Whether you live there already or are thinking about a move, join us for our first-ever Neighborhood Happy on May 16, 5-8 pm at Da Vinci Art Alliance, 709 Catharine Street. There, we’ll be learning all about how to buy or sell a home, how to get involved in the Bella Vista community, how to finance a mortgage, AND meeting the artists of the new exhibition at Da Vinci, Where I Dwell.