Placemaking with Transition Whatcom

“’Placemaking’ is both an overarching idea and a hands-on tool for improving a neighborhood, city or region. It has the potential to be one of the most transformative ideas of this century.” -Metropolitan Planning Council of Chicago (read more about placemaking)

Transition Whatcom (TW) held a series of events from May 13th through 15th that were rolled together to add a Placemaking theme to the 350 Home and Garden Challenge. The weekend started with a talk by Michael Cook of Portland's City Repair, who showed photos and described the history of the public participation projects that have helped to transform intersections to create public gathering places in several Portland neighborhoods. Thusly inspired by the art, beauty, and cooperative spirit of these projects, we approached two placemaking projects over the weekend - each within a couple of blocks of each other. This made for lively exchanges of volunteers and materials where needed, and the chance to encourage and assist each others' labor over the day.


Project #1: Renovating the Food Bank Garden with Reclaimed Materials

The project led by Homestead Habitats Paul Kearsley and Michael Cook of City Repair involved building a retaining wall out of urbanite for garden beds, creating public art together to decorate a chain link fence, and installing paths and edible perennial plantings in one of the Food Bank gardens located in downtown. Because the Farmers Market was happening across the street at the same time as the event, we were able to draw in and involve the public in art activities, and were able to educate around gardening and building with re-used materials.

Building the Urbanite wall 


Project #2: Reclaiming a Waste Area for Gardening and Stormwater Treatment

The second project took a strip of grass next to a warehouse along the heavily-used Interurban trail and added garden beds, perennials and will eventually add a raingarden for stormwater treatment. With live music, a lively crew of volunteers, including the surrounding businesses, and dozens of loads of mulch and soil, we filled three raised garden beds, sheet mulched the grass, and created perennial beds.

Removing waste material, and digging the raingarden boundary


The project manager, Nick Spring of Bellingham Urban Garden Syndicate, will continue to work with the nearby businesses and the neighboring low-income housing development to create a vision for how to continue to improve and care for this formerly marginal area.



Thanks to Juliet Thompson and the Transition Whatcom Operating Group for this recap!


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