“HOME GR/OWN converts Northside vacant lots into healthy green spaces for neighborhoods, which drive economic development, job creation, increases the quality of life, and we are proud to say that since we started in 2014 we have worked on 30 site so far.”

– Tim McCollow, HOME GR/OWN Project Manager

Mayor Tom Barrett announced his vision and construction details for a new green space, during a press conference seeking public input on the plans that was held on February 8 at the St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care. The lot had been vacant and blighted for decades, and in the spring would be transformed into another HOME GR/OWN urban storm water park for use by the adjacent Fondy Farmers Market, Lindsay Heights, Sherman Park, and Metcalfe Park neighborhood residents and groups. The proposed sustainability features will provide a new gathering space for Fond du Lac Avenue area residents, and is funded through the City of Milwaukee, Fund for Lake Michigan, and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

“It is good to see that HOME GR/OWN understands that the best way to work in a community is to work with the community,” said Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II. “I am pleased to say that they have done that with this is a new initiative, to build economic development within the 15th district.”

The City of Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO), through its HOME GR/OWN program, is coordinating the project that is an extension of ECO’s North Avenue greenscaping project now underway from 8th to 27th Streets, funded with the Zilber Neighborhood Initiative and City funds. The City has been working to beautify that segment of North Avenue with hanging baskets, landscaped lots, and other improvements to support walking and shopping.

“The City of Milwaukee is expanding its revitalization of Lindsay Heights by the creation of this new green space,” Mayor Barrett said. “This is another example of our public and private partnerships enhancing the quality of life and helping to spur further economic development into the neighborhoods. I encourage residents to attend our community outreach session to assist us in accomplishing this mission.”

Milwaukee was a finalist in Bloomberg’s first Mayors Challenge, held in the United States in 2012-13. Mayor Tom Barrett saw the competition as a way to spark public interest in the idea of environmental sustainability issues. A year later, he developed the HOME GR/OWN Initiative in order to find productive new uses for City of Milwaukee vacant lots increase access to healthy food to residents and improve neighborhood quality of life.

“Mayor Barrett and our HOME GR/OWN program have worked to increase vitality in Milwaukee’s neighborhoods,” said Erick Shambarger, Director of Environmental Sustainability. “This honor recognizes the powerful role that community collaboration plays in our projects, between local government, non-profits, and the community at large.”

The current list of partners for the Fondy Green Space include the City of Milwaukee’s HOME GR/OWN initiative, Strong Neighborhoods Plan, Department of City Development and Department of Public Works. It also includes the Fondy Food Center, Reflo, Business Improvement District #32, ReciproCITY, Halquist Stone, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Community Design Solutions and the Energy Exchange. Funding partners to date include the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and Fund for Lake Michigan. Many of these partners have worked together previously to create new green spaces such as the MLK Peace Place and the award-winning Ezekiel Gillespie Park.

“For years, we’ve been hearing from vendors and shoppers alike that they’d like the vacant lot transformed into a positive space for Fondy Farmers Market goers and the neighborhood,” said Jennifer Casey, Executive Director of the Fondy Food Center. “Fondy Food Center is thrilled to be working with our partners to turn this space into a community asset as the community has been requesting and we look forward to utilizing the park to improve and expand our current events and programming.”

The site will feature significant storm water management features, helping to reduce basement flooding in the area surrounding the now vacant lot. The project team plans to add solar power, seating, trees, native perennials and artistic, educational signage to create a healthy gathering space for the neighborhood.

“The Fondy Farmers Market project represents an exciting new approach to managing urban storm water runoff,” said Justin Hegarty, Executive Director of Reflo. “The innovative project will be the first of its kind in several respects and will repurpose a vacant lot to meaningfully detain and treat stormwater runoff from the surrounding buildings and streets.”

“We want to get in front of as many neighborhood groups as possible, young and old, in addition to conducting paper surveys and focus groups as well as the neighborhood design sessions,” said Fidel Verdin, co-director of ReciproCity. “I want the space to be fun, educational and relaxing all at the same time.”

It is because of HOME GR/OWN’s community partnerships and history of collaboration that it was one of 100 programs recently named a semifinalist in this year’s Innovations in American Government Awards competition though Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. HOME GR/OWN advanced from a pool of more than 500 applications from all 50 states and will compete to be named a Finalist in the competition. The grand prize is $100,000.

About the Fondy Park project

About the Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO), City of Milwaukee
The City of Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office (ECO), formerly known as the Office of Environmental Sustainability, strives to make Milwaukee a world-class eco-city. ECO develops practical solutions that improve people’s lives and the economy while working to protect and restore the natural eco-systems that are integral to our long-term prosperity. ECO collaborates with the community, develops global partnerships, and implements award-winning programs and the City’s Refresh Milwaukee sustainability plan.

About the Fondy Food Center
Fondy Food Center is a nonprofit with a mission to connect neighborhoods to fresh, local food—from farm to market to table—so that children learn better, adults live healthier and communities embrace cultural food traditions. The Fondy Food Center realizes its mission through its projects: Fondy Farmers Market, Schlitz Pop up Market, Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market, Market Match Program, Milwaukee Farmers Market Connection and Fondy Farm Project.

About Reflo
As a nonprofit organization, Reflo’s mission is to become a leader in sustainable water use, green infrastructure and water management in urban environments. Grounded in strong client relationships and community partnerships, we will provide cost effective and sustainable solutions for rainwater and greywater use. We will accomplish our objectives through education, research, and the implementation of water projects that are rewarding for individuals, local communities, and the organizations that support them.

About ReciproCITY
ReciproCITY is a mobile arts collective that focuses on community activism, social justice, and urban agricultural issues in Milwaukee and beyond. It is collectively run by Michael Carriere (author, history professor, Milwaukee School of Engineering), Fidel Verdin (artist and educator, hip-hop artist, co-founder of Summer of Peace, and the developer of Peace Park, a community garden located at 5th Street and Locust Street), Nicolas Lampert (Peck School of the Arts, Dept. of Art and Design, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Climate Prints, and the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative), and Paul Kjelland (artist, 371 Productions community engagement, Riverwest 24, Climate Prints, and Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative).

© Photo

Lee Matz, Tim McCollow, Home GR/OWN

Read the article and listen to the audio segment that were produced as companion features for this news report.