Micropark program expands in Northwest Indiana, creating new gathering places for communities
Photo curtesy of Neighborhoods, Inc.
New 'Micropark' welcomes neighbors
- By Keith D. Speaks, Executive Director, Neighborhoods Inc.
- June 3, 2011
Last summer, my organization, Neighborhoods Inc. (NI), a not-for-profit dedicated to community development in Northwest Indiana, built 22 “microparks” in East Chicago homeowners’ front yards, each one a testament to how a small investment can have a big impact on communities.
Each micropark – which costs $1,000-1,150 and consists of an attractive, stamped concrete pad with an ornamental bench and planter – created a new gathering place for the community in a participating homeowner’s front yard. Through this pilot project, known as “Please, Have a Seat!” neighbors and passersby now have 22 inviting places to meet and socialize with their neighbors, forming friendships and strengthening community bonds.
We are very pleased to announce that, building on this pilot phase, the “Please, Have A Seat!” program will continue in East Chicago and expand to Miller Beach, Hammond and Highland, with $21,500 in support from the Legacy Foundation, through grants from the Lake County Community Fund and John S. and James L. Knight Fund. We also received a commitment of $10,000 from NIPSCO and $5,000 from a private citizen in Texas.
We know the money will be put to good use because we have carefully monitored the impact of the bench: From August to December 2010, NI surveyed bench recipients to find out how the bench has changed their block. Out of 45 completed surveys and 270 questions, their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive:
- Participants report that neighbors, walkers, schoolchildren, dogwalkers and other passersby enjoy resting and socializing on the benches on a regular basis.
- Participants appreciate how the bench serves as an “ice-breaker” to meet previously unknown neighbors by inviting them to sit on the bench.
- Several bench recipients were pleased they could use the bench on Halloween to hand out candy.
- And there have been no reports of any abuse to the bench or complaints about its appearance.
As the program expands, we expect that these small, well-planned investments will have a positive impact on public safety, neighborhood beautification, stabilizing and increasing property values and supporting neighborhood stabilization.
Word has spread about the benefits of this program: Coverage from the Chicago Tribune, Post-Tribune, Times of Northwest Indiana and WYIN-Channel 56, plus positive word-of-mouth from local residents, has led to numerous requests from East Chicago residents who would like a micropark installed in their front yards. We’re delighted that new funding will make it possible to meet some of these requests.
Here’s how the bench location process works: After an interested homeowner completes an application, NI inspects their property and selects bench locations based on visibility, foot traffic, interest level, homeowner’s acceptance of contract for placement, and other reasons deemed appropriate by the collaboration team. You can view information on this project on our website at www.neighborhoodsinc.com.
We are seeking additional financial support so that we can reach our goal of 100 microparks installed in 2011. Please contact Keith Speaks, Executive Director of Neighborhoods Inc., at 219.844.1876 or email@example.com if you would like to make a tax-deductible donation and help create more “Please, Have a Seat!” micropark sites.