Sowing Placemaking seeds in the Bronzeville Community Garden™ - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Sowing Placemaking seeds in the Bronzeville Community Garden™

For several years, MPC has provided leadership in Chicago to promote and implement Placemaking, a multifaceted approach to developing public spaces. Placemaking involves looking at, listening to, and asking questions of the people who live, work and play in the neighborhood to discover core needs and aspirations, and utilizing the resulitng insights to create welcoming "community places." As a MPC board member, I am proud to have been able to help facilitate this in my own neighborhood by working with a volunteer team of residents and variety of organizations to develop the Bronzeville Community Garden™, located at the corner of 51st St. and Calumet Ave. The healthy principles of Placemaking, which transform public spaces into active community places are carried through in what used to be desolate, vacant lots, providing a place to gather, socialize, and learn through community gardening and other activities. Assisted by significant partnerships with important organizations such as the Bronzeville Alliance, Brook Architecture, Openlands, and CEDA, Placemaking became a reality through the development of the Bronzeville Community Garden™.

Since breaking ground this August, the Bronzeville Community Garden™ has already captured the attention of Chicago residents and city officials. On December 2nd, the garden's leadership team was honored with Mayor Daley's Green Works Award for Community Leadership. This award celebrates visionary people forging a more sustainable future. We were delighted that Bronzeville Community Garden™ was recognized as one of the best of what is happening in Chicago's green marketplace.

Bronzeville Community Garden™ is sponsored by my company, Urban Juncture, an organization dedicated to utilizing commerce to revitalize economically challenged urban communities, in conjunction with our sister organization, Urban Juncture Foundation. It is the first venue of our Bronzeville Cookin'™ initiative, which will bring four restaurants and a produce store to a sustainably rehabilitated building at 51st Street and the CTA Green Line. Most of the work was done by a team of community volunteers led by Chef Tsadakeeyah Emmanuel, one of our business partners in Bronzeville Cookin'™. We envision the garden to be a vehicle to educate and engage Bronzeville residents on sustainability, conservation, health, food and nutrition.  Our other primary goal is to implement and model sustainable and environmentally sound methods and practices in both the structural and agricultural components of the site. The garden includes a Chef’s Pavilion, a Public Performance Patio, a butterfly sanctuary, an art exhibit, a communal dining table, several chess/checkers stations, and about a dozen production beds. Located on a high traffic commercial corridor, the garden is not intended to be a permanent installation. Urban Juncture hopes to eventually expand and relocate this space and replace it with a commercial development to increase local jobs and amenities.

So far, we have had great neighborhood interaction and the garden has done a lot to beautify the local community, making the Bronzeville Community Garden™ a model for Placemaking in Chicago. This garden has transformed the block adjacent to the 51st Green Line station into a more welcoming and accessible place for the community.

Not only did the garden sow seeds in its plot; but it is encouraging the growth of other important "green" enterprises in  Bronzeville.

Interested in learning more? Visit our Facebook site to learn about Bronzeville Community Garden™ and Placemaking Chicago for information about how Placemaking can impact your community.


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