Monday, June 11, 2012

Pocket parks: Productive land-use to improve the quality of life

Since moving to the Silver City neighborhood in June 2009, I have been involved with an effort to make the neighborhood an even better place to live. It is much more feasible to do this by beginning with the smallest possible unit, the block.
In the fall of 2012, Will Sebern, the outreach coordinator with Layton Boulevard West Neighbors, followed up on a conversation we had had the previous summer about what to do with a vacant lot across the street from our house. It had been suggested that we look into purchasing the lot from the city and gift it to the neighborhood association so that they could do something productive with it. Will had another idea. He contacted the city and was given permission to begin brainstorming ways to use this forgotten piece of land. Architecture for Humanity came on board for design counsel and thus a partnership was born. Through several meetings between residents of the 3100 and 3200 blocks of West Madison, a design was chosen and plans to get the materials donated were made. The pool of initial meeting goers was mixed: Hispanic, White and African-American; young and old; men and women; renters and owners.
The next step was to contact the alderman's office to gain his support. A letter was sent to constituents within two blocks on all sides of the vacant lot (in Spanish as well as English). The last meeting was held on Sat., June 1 with about 12 residents in attendance. We are now looking to have Milwaukee Urban Garden purchase the property to maintain stewardship of the land, since the city will not allow any permanent structure to be built on city land. Once this is done, we will set build-out dates and any volunteers are welcome.

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