HOME GR/OWN Milwaukee empowers residents to transform neighborhoods by re-purposing foreclosed properties into community assets that spark new economic opportunities around local, healthy food production and distribution. HOME GR/OWN is an initiative of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, led by the Office of Environmental Sustainability. It addresses two critical issues facing some of Milwaukee’s most vulnerable neighborhoods: foreclosures, vacant lots and limited access to nutritious, affordable foods. HOME GR/OWN is an evolving collection of strategies, policy changes and economic development tools that shift the paradigm in how City government works with the community to develop & improve foreclosed properties (vacant lots, homes and commercial structures) so that these assets form a productive link in the local food supply chain. Mayor Barrett and a team from City Hall crafted this concept in consultation with key community stakeholders this summer.
HOME GR/OWN works on three levels simultaneously:
- Working within City government to streamline processes, permitting and ordinances when practical, to eliminate potential City roadblocks to increasing access to healthy food, new food-based entrepreneurship and vacant lot & home re-purposing.
- Working within neighborhoods. HOME GR/OWN concentrates City and partner resources in targeted neighborhoods, in order to catalyze the biggest change. The City is initially targeting the Lindsay Heights neighborhood and to supplement the great work of organizations such as Zilber Family Foundation, Walnut Way, Alice’s Garden, Center for Resilient Cities, Fondy Food Center, M.O.V.E., Urban Underground, Healthy Corner Store Initiative, A.B.E. among others.
- Working within community food systems. HOME GR/OWN is working to determine if Milwaukee ready for a food hub, linking local growers to local markets, processing local food and creating new jobs and opportunities? How best can we extend our short growing season within the City? What are the best ways to support and train new food growers, processors and marketers? Who are our new partners to creatively re-imagine and re-purpose new uses for vacant lots and foreclosed homes?
HOME GR/OWN Gears Up for 2014 Projects
The HOME GR/OWN team has been concentrating on breaking ground on vacant lot beautification projects and extensive community outreach for the past several months. Several vacant lot beautification projects are nearing shovel ready for spring including a new pocket park in Lindsay Heights and stormwater features on vacant lots.
There are many other great ideas and potential projects coming from community members but resources are simple not available for every great idea. Nevertheless, the HOME GR/OWN team is preparing for an extensive fund drive in 2014. We are currently pursuing all types of funding sources: local and national foundations, federal grants, and a few "outside the box" fundraisers we hope to roll out soon in addition to the City resources already allocated to HOME GR/OWN.
In addition to the projects already mentioned above, there are many projects currently underway as the HOME GR/OWN team continues to work on all fronts:
- New orchards, stormwater parks, community gardens and urban farms in Lindsay Heights and surrounding neighborhoods;
- One-stop shopping on HOME GR/OWN website for FAQs on working with the City on community food issues;
- Coordinating vacant lot rehabilitation efforts with the Mayor's SNIP Initiative
- Working on updating urban agriculture ordinances;
- Serve on Steering Committees for Milwaukee Food Council and the Institute for Urban Agriculture & Nutrition;
- Link between new grower training efforts among local providers;
- Sustaining and expanding Healthy Corner Stores;
- Creating on-the-job training for a crew of City residents building new green infrastructure;
- Furthering the community discussions of a new Milwaukee Food Hub; and
- Commercial corridor improvements on North Avenue and Fond du Lac Avenues.
These projects reinforce our credo of creating multiple sustainability impacts within a single HOME GR/OWN project. Examples include new food production sites that double as stormwater mitigation while creating safe, new neighborhood gathering spots; underemployed local residents building a new pocket park which educates school groups on green infrastructure techniques; and, revised City ordinances that reduce unintended obstacles for new growing operations. Ultimately, our 2014 goal is to improve10 vacant lots this year! More details on our 2014 food system and HOME GR/OWN goals are found at www.refreshmke.com.
- Spring will be here soon (Hopefully): City of Milwaukee has published a Vacant Lot Handbook, which offers ideas for creative use of unused land in the city.
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