Senior Fellow Asma Baban won the 2020 Detroit Grant competition for her project, creating a pocket park in the Dexter-Lintwood neighborhood of Detroit. Park construction is underway and there will be more updates this upcoming summer.
Read Asma’s reflection on the progress of the project below:
This past summer, with funding from Humanity in Action along with local non-profit Dream of Detroit (DREAM), we were able to install the first pocket park in the Dexter-Linwood neighborhood of Detroit. Parks & Lite is part of a larger revitalization project in the DREAM neighborhood that seeks to localize amenities in a city that often requires vehicular transportation in order to obtain goods and services. This project focused on the safety, beautification, and accessibility of a local neighborhood by providing two main features that are currently absent: a pocket park and adequate street lighting. This project focused on the safety, beautification, and accessibility of a local neighborhood by providing two main features that are currently absent: a pocket park and adequate street lighting.
This project focused on the safety, beautification, and accessibility of a local neighborhood by providing two main features that are currently absent: a pocket park and adequate street lighting.
When I contacted Mark Crain, Executive Director of Dream of Detroit, asking if he would want to partner on this grant, it was because I admired the work DREAM is doing. They’re a locally run organization in Detroit that serves an immediate population of over 300 residents every single day. I had come across DREAM towards the end of college when I heard of its neighborhood revitalization efforts—buying and renovating homes, boarding up foreclosed homes, starting an annual street fair and local block club, and undertaking beautification projects including the planting of over 100 trees.
When their concept of neighborhood revitalization—a hyper-localized area where housing, groceries, coffee shops, community centers, and more city amenities are within walking distance of each other—made its way into the research I was conducting for my work, I began to learn of the people leading and running DREAM; people like Mark, who have made it their mission to battle gentrification by creating neighborhoods full of all of life’s most enticing bits.
Given that 30% of the of the population in DREAM’s impact turf (target area) are children between the ages of 2-12, we believed installing a pocket park would allow the children of the neighborhood a space of their own (while providing families with a means to gather outside…or watch over their youngest!). … installing a pocket park would allow the children of the neighborhood a space of their own…
… installing a pocket park would allow the children of the neighborhood a space of their own…
And though the city administration installed street lighting around 2013-2014, those lights do not serve the communities of Detroiters living in neighborhoods like Dexter-Linwood. Street lights were replaced in each block, and where there would be three street lights now there only stands one. Although these city-installed LED lights boast being environmentally efficient, they are ineffective in actually lighting neighborhood blocks due to the spotlight feature created by the light.
With Humanity in Action’s Detroit Grant, we were able to install benches, a swing set, and a seesaw set within the pocket park. The neighborhood children have been able to use this space during their online learning sessions amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic. Our hope is that with the uncertainty around schooling in Michigan come Fall of 2021, these children will still have a place to go retreat to after their full day on Zoom. And in the warm summer and autumn days, the neighborhood can gather safely outside, sit on the park benches to catch up, and the children can breathe in the fresh air.
Humanity in Action’s Detroit Grant Competition also allowed us to begin targeting the issue of dimly lit neighborhoods. With the installation of the park, our priority was allowing for children to safely travel to and from their homes around the impact turf. As such, we used funding to install lighting in the unlit stretch of land directly across the neighborhood’s community center leading straight to the pocket park. Neighborhood parents can rest assured that their children are now making it home safely if they stay out past sunset.
Through the Parks & Lite project, we were able to add to the hyper-localized space that had been envisioned while maintaining the creation of a community good that is to be claimed by the residents as their own. This park is meant to serve the people living nearby and by setting up the foundations, we hope to continue to add on to the project as the needs of the community grow and change.
I personally hope that the children in the DREAM neighborhood wake up on Saturday mornings, grin big when they realize they don’t have to go to school that day, make their way down from their bedrooms to watch Saturday Morning Cartoons while still in pajamas, and only be pulled away when they start hearing the voices of their neighbors rising outside. I hope it’s the laughter and the loudness that draws them to go outside, see the other neighborhood kids, put their tennis shoes on (still in pajamas), and run out to play in the park down the street. There is no greater gift than being able to pass on the experience of warm nostalgia, memories that can be recalled decades later. With this grant, with this project, that’s what I hope to happen. We built something tangible to keep alive a generation’s intangible humanity—the things like spirit, kindness, sincerity, hope. All that allows us to move forward despite all. We built something tangible to keep alive a generation’s intangible humanity—the things like spirit, kindness, sincerity, hope.
We built something tangible to keep alive a generation’s intangible humanity—the things like spirit, kindness, sincerity, hope.
Thanks to the generosity of Humanity in Action’s Detroit Grant, and Dream of Detroit’s beautiful partnership, Parks & Lite has been a success. We have laid a foundation upon which can be built a love of the neighborhood for all the residents.