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Mill District Residents Create Their Own Green Space

I'm sharing this story because it's such a neat example of Mill District residents taking the initiative to improve their surroundings.

We live at the Bridgewater Lofts, a large development of roughly 280 residential units with retail on the ground floor.  The building is U-shaped, and many residents overlook an interior courtyard.  The courtyard, which is not visible from the street, had become an eyesore for residents whose balconies offer a view of it.

Bridgewater resident Ann Napp took the initiative to start a Garden Club, with an initial goal of transforming that area.  The first meeting took place in August of 2009.

To assist with the project, Garden Club member Mark Zimmerman contacted the graduate studies coordinator in both the Landscape Architecture program and the Horticulture Department at the U of M. Sandy Meulners and Sarah Ash, grads in the Landscape Architecture program, met with the Garden Club and developed a very thorough and creative plan.

Several Garden Club committees were formed to handle different stages of the courtyard project. Bricks were purchased from Menards and delivered in the spring of 2010.  Jim Stanton (Shamrock Development) generously agreed to cover the cost of installing an irrigation system.  Mickman Brothers delivered dirt for the new raised beds, and they also installed the irrigation system.

Some of the large trees and shrubs were delivered from Gertens. Subsequent smaller orders of shrubs, bulbs and some perennials from several garden centers were hauled by Garden Club members.  All of the plant material was installed by the Club. Most of the tools were purchased with either budgeted funds or funds raised by the Garden Club from donations, and a few hand tools were donated.

In addition to the courtyard project, the Garden Club also took on care of the main entrance planters, as well as planters in the pool area and the patio off the community room.  This actually saved the Association money over having an outside contractor take care of these seasonal plantings. Equally beneficial to the cost savings was how beautiful the planters turned out.

Peter Zenner, Bridgewater resident and Garden Club member, put together this video of phase one of the courtyard project, which was completed this year.

I asked Mark if he had any advice for members of other Associations who might be considering a Garden Club.  Here are his thoughts:

  • Start small, and pick a project with high visibility to Association members.
  • Plan well, and raise as much money as you can to have the most impact.
  • Make it a social event.
  • Go for the big display. If you make a great impression early on, you'll have much better luck raising money and expanding your projects later on.
  • Get people to take ownership and pride in the project, and they're more likely to stick it out.

If you have a story about a positive effort being made by your condo or apartment building residents, please let us know - we'd love to share it on Mill City Times!

« Another Unique Story from MacPhail Center for Music | Main | You Don't Have to be Overweight to be Out of Shape »

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