By Hayley Crandall
The City of Milwaukee is launching a new initiative in the Harambee neighborhood to help residents build relaxing natural environments on city-owned vacant lots.
The Healing Spaces Initiative (HSI) gives Harambee residents and organizations a chance to create areas where neighbors can come recharge and take time out from city-life, according to the initiative’s webpage.
The HSI kicked off March 23 with a virtual event led by the Milwaukee’s Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation (NIDC), which is spearheading the city’s efforts, and its community partners.
This initiative operates through the submission of project ideas and then, if approved, helps residents with building to make their concepts a reality.
Under the HSI, spaces can include welcoming features such as flower gardens, benches, gazebos and little free libraries, explained Angela Mitchell Reid, community outreach liaison. The hope is to create an area of comfort for all to enjoy.
“It’s just going to be an opportunity for neighborhood residents to find their center and to relax in their own community,” Reid said.
Applications can be submitted by Harambee residents or communitybased organizations working in Harambee. Each is reviewed by NIDC and approved projects are funded up to $5,000, explained Community Outreach Coordinator Kacee Ochalek. The initiative is funded by Bader Philanthropies, Inc.
“This is a fully funded project,” Ochalek said. “Know that we are here to support you fully in this project.”
This HSI strives for community participation as projects should be beneficial and interest residents. Proposed concepts require at least five community members signatures showing support and/or committing to volunteering, Ochalek explained.
“The obligations of you, the grant recipient, is to promote a high level of community engagement throughout the neighborhood,” Ochalek said.
Sustainability is another important factor within the initiative as NIDC wants to ensure that these spaces will be cared for years after completion, explained Ochalek. Grant recipients attend a “Project Consultation” meeting after being accepted, followed by a “Sustainability Meeting” post-project.
“We’re going to build this this year in 2021 and we want this to continue for years on,” said Ochalek.
Spaces will follow Crime Prevention Through Environment Design (CPTED) standards, explained Reid. This includes addressing issues with lighting, entrapment areas and sight line. The lots will also be abiding by ADA regulations, assuring accessibility for everyone.
The HSI community partners include Bader Philanthropies, Inc., Eras Senior Network, Groundwork MKE, Safe & Sound and True Skool. They assist residents in the building of the healing spaces.
Applications are due by April 26.
Project start date is June 7 and concludes Sept. 6. Interested participants are required to attend an HSI orientation prior to submission. More information, including volunteer sign-up and orientation times, can be found at https://city.milwaukee.gov/DCD/NIDC/Healing-Spaces-Initiative.