Nature in Neighborhoods grants: urban transformation
Nature in Neighborhoods capital grants
› Urban transformation
Who says nature can’t be at home along a freeway, at a light-rail station or outside a medical campus?
Greening Interstate 205
Often, urban transformations feel far removed from the natural world. Busy roads and big buildings evoke images of gray, not green.
But, as Nature in Neighborhood grant recipients are showing, a little creativity and determination can go a long way toward weaving nature into the most urban development and infrastructure projects. Just ask cyclists and runners enjoying thousands of plantings along Interstate 205, or commuters who will experience the region’s first green park-and-ride.
Urban redevelopment brings people together in unique ways, including organizations that don’t typically collaborate. Although these projects tend to have the biggest price tags, they also have some of the biggest benefits for their communities.
Metro grant helps concrete alley in Cornelius become a ribbon of green
Green Alley, $322,000
Recipient: Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center
Partners: City of Cornelius, Adelante Mujeres, Centro Cultural, Verde, Jackson Bottoms Wetlands Preserve
Rising from methodically piled heaps of steel and cement, an informal parking lot and alley in downtown Cornelius is being transformed into a full-service medical campus – complemented with a green ribbon of a walkway, funded by a Metro Nature in Neighborhoods capital grant.
Salvaged building materials will go back into a modernized Virginia Garcia Wellness Center on the lot, replacing the converted home and garage in which the center was housed. While allowing more patients to be seen throughout the year, the new campus is also designed to more efficiently achieve the center’s longstanding goal: providing healthcare and wellness education to uninsured and low-income families.
A crumbling alleyway runs east to west through the lot. Devoid of much green aside from a pair of unhealthy trees, the blacktop path has been an eyesore and walking hazard for years. But plans to reinvigorate the walkway needed a concept and capital.
Scott Edwards Architecture provided the vision, and the Metro grant provided part of the funding.
"It’s going to be incredible," said Michele Horn, foundation relations officer for Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center. "We envision the space as a gathering place, not just for patients but for the community. We really see this as a community enhancement."
The block-long path will soon be outfitted with permeable pavers, a dozen benches, 16 native trees and as many as 2,500 new plants and shrubs. The architects will also work with Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve to create new interpretive signs that teach passersby about the bioswales and water-saving features on campus.
"We wanted to look at the bigger picture of how a building contributes to the water environment in the area and how it can have a positive impact," Horn explained.
The Virginia Garcia Foundation worked with Richard Meyer, Cornelius' development and operations director, on the application that secured the $322,000 Nature in Neighborhoods capital grant. He praised the greenway project as a model for how the city hopes to revitalize three adjacent blocks of alleyway on both sides of the property.
"It’s what the community has wanted for some time," Meyer said. "We’re really happy to get the resources to expand the great services of Virginia Garcia and, at the same time, build a green walkway in the Main Street area of Cornelius."
The space, frequently used for parking, will soon be a car-free oasis for neighbors and patients at the center. Meyer said the city plans to create streetfront parking as each piece of the walkway is completed.
He pointed to the development’s well-rounded emphasis on healthcare, active transportation, education and environmentalism as an asset to Cornelius.
"All of these causes are overlapping and addressed nicely in this project," he said.
Learn about efforts to focus development in existing urban areas well served by transit and other services and amenities. Discover how communities are working to revitalize historic downtowns and main streets and build walkable, affordable neighborhoods.
Nature in Neighborhoods is a broad based regional initiative to restore and protect the region’s natural assets.