Do you dream of adding some life to a sidewalk corner in your neighborhood, starting a community garden, or creating a public bench where one is sorely needed? Transforming your city, one step at a time: with a handful of dollars. That is the belief of the Montreal Center of Urban Ecology (CEUM). In the wake of the Cities for People movement, which was financed by a private pan-Canadian institution, the CEUM invited citizens from Montreal, Laval, and Longueuil to present micro-projects to transform their cities. Independent projects funded privately without the city or neighborhood having a say on the result – does it sound subversive?
“The idea is getting people to take action. We say ‘Stop waiting for the green light from your city or neighborhood. We say to them ‘Act!’ and give them the money to do it,” explains Julie Rocheleau, director of the CEUM, which will distribute $15,000 as part of this small-scale operation of urban development.
However, this seemingly anarchic project is not at all illegal. The projects presented must conform to municipal regulations and must be done with the consent of landowners. “We are not talking about guerrilla gardening, or anything like that,” insists the spokeswoman. The citizens will receive up to $500 to realize their projects, which can range from mini community vegetable gardens, to urban art projects, as well as events intended to invigorate neighborhood life.
“There can even be projects costing $100, such as an outdoor film showing in an alley. These small projects help to improve the quality of life in the city and allow citizens to make the city their own,” explains Rocheleau. She says that the projects of urban agriculture provided material for several discussions held at the CEUM. Inspired by “le jardinet des mal aimées,” a spontaneous vegetable garden created last year in the neighborhood of Rosemont-la-Petite-Patrie by residents, more citizens also want to swap concrete for tomatoes and beans.
Furthermore, Julie Rocheleau has named these mini-projects that liven up the life of a neighborhood or the end of a street “urban acupuncture,” owing to their targeted, but effective nature. The participants in the Transform Your City project must assemble teams of at least 3 people, and propose their wildest ideas before June 27. The accepted ideas will be announced in the beginning of July, and will carried out between mid-July and the end of September.
The Montreal Center of Urban Ecology has even been chosen by the Center for a New American Dream, an American organization that advocates citizen participation and reducing consumption, to launch another call for projects as part of their Get2gether program. This time, up to $2,000 will be offered to citizens desiring to add a little color to the urban landscape, that is if they manage to win the sum.
“This project has had a ripple effect. We will be in charge of leading similar initiatives this summer in Toronto, Calgary, and Regina,” affirms Rocheleau.
And the results? Last year, Get2gether led to the creation of a gardening tool and skill exchange in Phoenix, Arizona, a “time bank” and service exchange in New Orleans, and the birth of the City Share Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a service that delivers shared utensils and electric appliances.
So, do you have any ideas for your street corner? On your marks, get set, and dream!
Aside from urban gardens, what other inexpensive acts of “urban acupuncture” do you think can add life and a sense of community to a neighborhood or street?
Original article, originally published in French, can be found here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.