Dania Beach, FL (PRWEB) November 01, 2013
The Florida Redevelopment Association (FRA) has awarded the Dania Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (DBCRA) the Roy F. Kenzie awards in two out of 12 categories - one in the distinctive, Out of the Box category. This competition is highly competitive with both CRA's and Cities across the state applying for a total of 12 award categories. “It is highly unusual for one agency to win in two categories,” said Jeremy Earle, DBCRA Executive Director, “we are honored to accept these awards and proud of our accomplishments over the last year.”
The DBCRA addressed strategic partnerships, economic development and community health and applied for the prestigious FRA Roy F. Kenzie award in the “Out of the Box” category because, first, this initiative did not fit neatly into any other category, but secondly, it truly was an “out of the box” approach to the creation of a community garden. “Everything we’ve done is extremely strategic in terms of a long-term vision for addressing community health, education and blight, and absolutely addressing economic empowerment within the community,” said Jeremy Earle, DBCRA Executive Director.
The DBCRA created a Community Garden, The PATCH™, on a vacant 1.6 acre lot to provide local organically grown vegetables to residents as part of an initiative to eliminate blight, promote economic development and improve community health. The idea led to a successful partnership between the DBCRA and the Broward Regional Health Planning Council and is an outstanding example of how non-traditional partnerships can be created in order to fulfill the CRA’s mandate to build better communities. The PATCH™ is truly “People’s Access to Community Horticulture”, making a strong, positive impact on quality of life in Dania Beach.
The approach was clearly innovative. In its efforts to remove blighted conditions, revitalize a neighborhood, and enhance community health, the DBCRA recognized that an opportunity existed, through the creation of a Community Garden, to improve the quality of life in the urban residential areas of Dania Beach. Working in conjunction with the City of Dania Beach and with help from an initial grant of $35,000 from the Broward Regional Health Planning Council (BRHPC), the DBCRA developed the Dania Beach People’s Access to Community Horticulture (PATCH™), a community garden program. A PATCH logo was designed to represent the goal of providing community access to locally grown food. The purpose of the program is to facilitate meaningful connections between all residents of the community, including gardeners, educators, students and researchers on things pertaining to the Market and Community Gardens while providing opportunities to cultivate friendships, strengthen neighborhoods, improve nutrition, and enjoy recreational and therapeutic activities. According to Walter Duke, Mayor of Dania Beach, “The community garden is a fantastic story of Public Private Partnerships and the community pulling together, really creating a win-win situation. We took what was once a blighted piece of undeveloped land that had no near term use, and collectively, through a lot of resources and visioning, we were able to transform that dry patch of earth into a beautiful community garden. This garden not only provides a source of civic pride, but also provides an opportunity for us to teach our children and our residents about horticulture, agronomy, and how to run a business. Additionally, it provides our residents, stakeholders and local businesses with a tremendous source of fantastic, fresh organic food.”
Having committed to the program, the DBCRA went to work to lay the foundation for the creation of a sustainable community garden. The first, in a series of gardens to be located in residential/mixed use district areas throughout the CRA, was developed in Sun Garden Isles. Located on 1.6 acres of land which was once a dump site for trash, the garden is now one of the largest in Broward County. Community support was obtained through several meetings with Community leaders and public meetings where the health benefits of consuming organic fruits and vegetables were outlined. The Dania Beach PATCH allows for other community gardens to be located on vacant properties throughout the community as approved by the City Commission and CRA Board. One of the primary impetuses for the project was the elimination of slum and blighted conditions as described in Florida Statute 163 Part III.
DBCRA and the City of Dania Beach laid the garden’s foundation, and community volunteers worked over a period of six weeks to fill 2,500 jackpot bags, with specially produced compost, and plant vegetables in the garden at Sun Garden Isles. With the garden complete and growing, the PATCH moved into its second phase which was to create an onsite Farmer’s Market. Vendors who sell locally produced products, resell approved food items, or are a local business or charitable organization are eligible to participate in the Farmer’s Market, while any member of the community can hold from 1 to 100+ individual plots. The program contains an innovative Green Annex which teaches residents throughout the community about sustainable “green” practices that they can utilize in their own lives.
To ensure a positive experience at a PATCH garden, a Code of Conduct has been established along with policies, procedures, and rules and regulations which maintain the integrity of the program and the gardens.
The impact on the community is profound.
As an economic development effort, the grant from the BRHPC provides a weekly stipend to two people from the community to work approximately 20 hours a week. Dedicated to promoting healthy living and environmental responsibility PATCH also provides an educational component, for which partnerships are formed with local schools in order to utilize the garden as a mechanism to introduce students to science, technology, engineering and math. Through these efforts, PATCH enhances the quality of urban life through the creation of integrated relationships between residents, community leaders, merchants and educators. For the Sun Garden Isles community, the PATCH Farmers Market now provides access to nutritionally rich foods at more affordable prices than neighborhood supermarkets.
Community gardens have been shown to increase property values in the immediate vicinity where they are located. Vacant properties can serve as hubs for illegal activity, unsightly physical appearances and decreased property values of surrounding areas. Lower-income areas typically have one-third fewer grocery stores than middle and high-income neighborhoods. This “grocery gap” means that lower income areas have fewer healthy foods to choose from and pay more for what’s available (up to 50% more). Through the communities’ incorporation of Farmer’s Market vendor products and locally grown foods in PATCH gardens, the dependency on globally imported foods is lessened, creating a more self-sufficient and independent community and many residents who would not exercise on a daily basis utilize a community garden for light daily recreational exercise while maintaining the plants and surrounding areas. The PATCH program utilizes these areas and removes the negative impact associated with vacant properties on the community.
The awards ceremony took place on Thursday, October 31st, at the annual FRA Conference in Tampa.
Roy F. Kenzie had a major impact on the world of redevelopment as an architect, planner, urban designer and developer in Miami in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. “The FRA Awards Program recognizes the best in redevelopment in Florida. It is open to any member of the association. Winners of the Roy F. Kenzie Award are evaluated on how effectively their projects demonstrate innovation, positively impact their community and provide applicability to other Florida communities, among other criteria. Within the 12 juried categories, the Florida Redevelopment Association Awards showcase and celebrate the most innovative and effective redevelopment programs in Florida. The 12 categories are: Planning Studies; Marketing and Communications; Capital Projects/ Beautification; Management Programs/Creative Partnerships; Creative Organizational Development and Funding; Outstanding Rehabilitation, Renovation or Reuse Project; Outstanding New Building Project; Transportation/Transit Enhancements; Cultural Enhancement; Outstanding Affordable Housing Project; Out of the Box; and President’s Award.” Excerpt from the FRA Best Book.