“Start small and build incrementally,” was presenter Teale Phelps Bondaroff’s advice to 30 participants at our November 5 Pocket Places workshop.
“People have a passion for the hyper-local — small nodes on their own streets,” noted co-presenter Lorne Daniel. So the workshop explored opportunities for Greater Victoria residents to start from their own homes and built community connecting places. Early experience with little free libraries, boulevard gardens, and small seating refuges is that they build important neighbour-to-neighbour bonds.
Pocket Places can start with temporary pieces and social events, Teale noted, then evolve and grow. Block parties with a neighbourhood potluck and temporary street closure is a great way to get people of all ages together for creative sharing of ideas. People can also start with innovations on their private property, then invite neighbours to join in. Some repurposed boxes might be painted and positioned as seats in a mini conversation spot, to test interest in a bench. Small plantings might grow into a community garden. In our growing city, even “vertical street” spaces are possible, he noted – apartments and condos where residents get together to transform their shared, interior, spaces into more engaging places for lingering and interacting.
Teale showed how second hand newspaper sales boxes can be repurposed as weather-proof little free libraries. Other possible elements of a Pocket Place include seating, children’s play spaces, gardens, painted utility poles, street murals, pathways, bulletin boards, lending cupboards, and more.
After seeing examples of the possibilities, the workshop participants got into planning their own. They shared ideas for Pocket Place features, identified potential locations on Victoria maps, and asked questions about challenges that their projects might face.
The workshop built on Kick-Off sessions offered earlier this fall by Building Resilient Neighbourhoods in three neighbourhoods, and on the GVPN’s project supporting “little free libraries.” With sponsorship from a City of Victoria My Great Neighbourhood grant, the GVPN project aims to assist local residents create small pockets of pride and engagement on their streets. We have mapped 146 little free libraries so far, with an aim to see the 150th open before the end of #Canada150.
The session wrapped up with information sharing about community resources to support Pocket Places, including City of Victoria My Great Neighbourhood grants, Building Resilient Streets ToolKit and micro-grants, and the ongoing GVPN project. Building Resilient Streets and the Placemaking Network will collaborate on a follow-up workshop in the new year. Interested? Feel free to email Teale (email@example.com).
Our thanks to project sponsors The City of Victoria and Victoria Foundation, and to Fairfield Gonzales Community Centre for providing workshop space and staff assistance!
photos courtesy Leah Seltzer, Building Resilient Neighbourhoods