by Greg Saville
The New Orlean’s Hollygrove Livable Communities and SafeGrowth Project is now an award-winning success story about turning a troubled neighborhood back from the brink of crime. Starting in 2007 it was a collaboration of AARP Louisiana, Trinity Christian Community and Hollygrove Neighbors headed by Nancy McPherson and Jason Tudor at AARP.
The AARP website describes how they launched the initiative through nuts-and-bolts teamwork, SafeGrowth technical assistance, and residents themselves who took a lead role.
This week Jason Tudor and I introduced SafeGrowth to the California AARP community, having run a SafeGrowth Summit in Sacramento last year. The setting was the city of Pasadena at the AARP California conference "On the road to Age-friendly communities".
Pasadena is a smaller city in the Los Angeles metro area and it was the ideal setting for new ideas about the age-friendly city in the 21st Century, particularly in regards to safety and crime. With over $85 Billion spent yearly on age-friendly initiatives, and over $1 Trillion contributed to the U.S. by the ‘longevity economy’, clearly, crime and safety must be integral for planning cities of the future.
There were 2 murders, 3 shootings, 17 assaults, and 14 property crimes over the past 5 years at, and near, an abandoned lot on Ward Street in southwest Baltimore. One murder cost the life of a friend of a member in our latest SafeGrowth class.
Ward Street is in Pigtown, an up-and-coming area with Baltimore-style row houses, a reinvigorated commercial street, and a historic museum for the first American railway, the B&O Railroad (in the 1870s they unloaded pigs onto the streets for herding to nearby slaughterhouses – hence, Pigtown).
Over the years the area suffered a higher than average crime rate, numerous abandoned homes, and vacant lots like the one on Ward Street. But in recent years the area has started revitalizing and things are improving! Led by Ben Hyman, executive director of the nonprofit Pigtown Main Street association, the neighborhood hosted the first SafeGrowth training in the city of Baltimore.
The response to the training was outstanding. Participants in four SafeGrowth teams included residents of the community, Baltimore police, planners, local shop owners, university students, representatives from city hall, crime analysts, and others. One of those teams tackled the Ward Street vacant lot mentioned above.
During final presentations to the wider community, each team described their plans for improvement.
The Ward Street group was particularly impressive with their SafeGrowth Analysis and Transformational Plan. They recommended community engagement meetings, linking community groups to others across the city, and expanding programming within the lot itself. They plan to use community cleanup days to clean the lot, better activation with murals, signage, and improved lighting.
Integrating the police and the business association into their plan ensured a more sustainable way to cut crime at the lot and in the surrounding neighborhood. Their long-term vision was to create a community hub for local social and recreational activities.
As their instructor I was most impressed by the fact that, like the other three groups, they did this entire project in only 5 weeks, they fought time constraints and they battled a classic north-eastern winter snowstorm during their site visits and safety audits. How’s that for commitment!
by Greg Saville
In the early years of CPTED, the skateboarder was the defiler of the public order and vandal of the public realm. Still today uncontrolled skateboarding causes damage to places. CPTED training taught how to target harden benches and use sand to disrupt wheel bearings. New anti-skateboarding laws and enforcement emerged.
Today the skateboard movement has gone legit. It's worth 4 billion dollars and has over 11 million participants. In 2020 it will be an Olympic sport. Skateboard parks populate every major city.
Skateboarding has come of age.
The same evolution is underway with graffiti and street art, the former defined as illegal, the latter not (both distinctions now fading into the Realpolitik).
We have written about murals and graffiti for years. SafeGrowth Advocate Anna Brassard wrote a few years ago about the graffiti/street artist world in her blog The Writing on the Wall. I wrote about a Graff War in Melbourne.
Today, as with skateboarding, change is underway. There are lists of World's Top Cities for murals. Penang in Malaysia is the leader. No surprise Berlin, Germany and Sydney, Australia are also leaders. Philadelphia and Melbourne aren’t (but should be). Krakow, Poland, Reykjavik, Iceland and Quebec City, Canada make the top ten.
I captured some street art and mural images in Toronto and Denver the past few weeks. I’m told by graff artists that the illegal practicing they do helps them refine their skills and produce these amazing legal works.
Perhaps if we can find a public practice place for street artists and legitimate display walls for their better work, we could minimize the illegal graffiti vandalism. Working with street artists, as these images show, can produce remarkable results.