UW-Milwaukee’s Design Solutions and Milwaukee’s HOMEGR/OWN initiative won the SXSW Eco Award in October. Milwaukee’s design group, Partners 4 Places, won the urban strategies category against groups from Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago and Seattle. The winning design transformed 28 vacant Milwaukee lots into six public parks and 20 orchards.
Community Design Solutions, led by Carolyn Esswein, hosted original workshops for community members to share their design ideas. The Department of Public Works and city landscapers took the ideas and created a budget.
“Working with Home GR/OWN on the Partners 4 Places project was an amazing experience for us at Community Design Solutions,” said Project Manager Gerri Witthuhn. “Not only were we able to play a part in transforming vacant lots into community assets, but we were able to do it by working with the local residents and feeding off of their creativity and ideas.”
Most of the vacant lots used in this project are located on the northwest side of Milwaukee. The parks and orchards brought landscaping jobs to residents.
“Watching these patches of empty land turn into beautiful spaces for neighbors to gather, relax and play has shown us how rewarding it is to not just design for people, but with people.”
The workshops and designs completed by CDS staff and graduate SARUP students under the direction of Carolyn Esswein. Graduate students that took part in this project include: Amber Piacentine, Anna Doran, Andrew Carlson, Ryan Guetschow, Nick Zukauska, and Gerri Witthuhn. Additional support was provided by Growing Power, David J. Frank Landscaping, the Mayor’s Strong Neighborhoods program, the Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation and the Milwaukee Common Council.