This week Capital Workforce Partners Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program participants and a team of 60 Aetna volunteers working with Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity joined Community Solutions in the physical reactivation and beautification of three vacant lots in Northeast Hartford. The groups helped clean up and sow wildflower seeds across sites located along Main Street, Garden Street, and Barbour Street. These lot reactivations are exciting steps taken as part of a larger plan developed by Community Solutions to help turn around poor health outcomes, unemployment, and physical neglect in the community.
Last year, through a comprehensive health impact assessment of the Northeast neighborhood, we determined that 107 vacant properties in the area were spaces ripe for potential transformation. By disincentivizing area investment and depressing public activity, empty lots act as sore spots for the community. Lot reactivation makes a twofold impact by discouraging the use of abandoned spaces as places for drug consumption, illegal dumping and other detrimental activities while simultaneously challenging narratives of hopelessness around the potential for positive neighborhood change.
The lots on Barbour, Main, and Garden will be the third, fourth, and fith lots in a greenbelt of vibrant spaces planned for the Northeast neighborhood to enjoy. In order to drum up the manpower needed to make these transformations happen, we’re rallying our neighborhood partners including community organizations and private businesses who are just as eager as us to spark positive change. Local residents are also playing a key role in the process and are regularly invited to propose, plan, and help implement the practical use of these lots around their neighborhood.
The lots reactivated this week will grow into beautiful wildflower meadows, but other lots in the neighborhood will become community activity spaces, depending on the needs and vision of residents themselves. Eventually the neighborhood could see lots tailored for music and spoken word performances, bike repair, art, children at play, or urban gardening. Other lots will be set aside to become part of a network of fruit and produce stands supporting Community Solution’s plans to transform the old Swift factory site into a fresh food and jobs hub.
With compost donated by the City of Hartford and wildflower seeds sourced from the locally run New England Seeds, this week’s group of lot transformers are helping to cultivate a culture of partnership that we know is essential to progress in the Northeast.