By Ed Runyan
Mikenna McClurg and Allison Keith are taking seriously their opportunity to make a difference in the future of Warren’s neighborhoods.
The two are creating a children’s garden on two vacant lots at the corner of Scott Street and Vine Avenue Northeast that will begin later this month to offer children age 5 to 12 a free summertime gardening experience.
They are signing up children now at the email account email@example.com, where interested parents can send a note to get more information.
The garden will provide children in the central city neighborhoods, where McClurg works, with a gardening experience and expose them to art.
The project is being done in conjunction with the non-profit organization Gregg’s Gardens, which has spent a couple of years improving what it calls the Garden District just north of downtown. McClurg’s and Keith’s garden is in the Garden District.
The garden will feature artwork in a concrete path through the park. McClurg has been growing flowers and vegetables in Packard Park Greenhouse this winter in preparation for them being transplanted into the garden in the weeks to come.
Tires are being used as a way to give each child his or her own gardening space, she said.
McClurg was at the non-profit Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership office downtown Thursday for the last of four meetings TNP had throughout the Central Warren area to receive suggestions from people who live and work in that part of the city. They are asking what people would like the neighborhoods to look like after hundreds of homes are demolished.
The city already has taken down 150 homes with grant money and will demolish about that many more through a second round of funding, said Marissa Williams, TNP community planning coordinator.
TNP received a $356,964 U.S. Housing and Urban Development Community Challenge grant that is being used to create a comprehensive property database on the condition of all the houses and residential lots in the city.
TNP also is creating a strategy relating to the best re-use of the city’s hundreds of vacant properties and encouraging re-use projects.
On Thursday, TNP met with about a dozen people interested in the central area to share some of the data it has gathered.
For example, 21 percent of the homes in the Central Warren area are vacant. That breaks down as 27 percent vacant in the Central City neighborhood, 20 percent in the Historic Perkins Homestead neighborhood near city hall, and 16 percent in the North End neighborhood.
McClurg said she’s getting excited to see how the city will be reshaped after more of the most dilapidated homes are removed and the community starts to re-use the lots.
Williams said there are short-term and long-term goals for the vacant properties. Gardens and natural grasses are short-term improvements. “Wildflower gardens are easily removed,” she said if a more desirable type of investment presents itself, such as construction of a new home.
The next series of meetings will be in the southeast area of the city.