Elm Playlot is a ½ acre park in the middle of the Iron Triangle neighborhood. Before being adopted by Pogo Park as its pilot project, Elm Playlot was, in the words of residents, “dirty, dull and dangerous.” In 2008, the City of Richmond replaced the park’s aging play equipment with new, pre-fabricated play equipment bought from a catalogue, only to have it vandalized within a week. To break this cycle, Pogo Park initiated a community involvement project to investigate why Elm Playlot was not being used and what local residents wanted in a neighborhood park. This project, Photovoice, revealed that the primary problem was that the abandoned homes across the street from the park invited illicit activity that spilled over into Elm Playlot. The City of Richmond secured $3.6 million in NSP funding from HUD and, once these houses were restored and occupied, violence in and around the park decreased dramatically.
Pogo Park next began to implement its “community development through park restoration” approach. Rather than have outside professionals do all the work, Pogo Park enlisted members of the local community to plan, design and rebuild Elm Playlot. Pogo Park formed the EPAC Team (Elm Park Action Committee), a group of local residents who reflect the racial and cultural diversity of the surrounding neighborhood. Pogo Park employed EPAC to plan the park, build a scale model of the future design, make physical improvements to the park and act as park stewards during open hours. EPAC is currently still working in Elm Playlot.
In 2012, Pogo Park partnered with the City of Richmond to develop a successful $2 million grant application for the restoration of Elm Playlot. As the community partner for the project, Pogo Park has been working with the City to implement the grant. For example, Pogo Park assisted the City in purchasing the house adjacent to Elm Park, which expanded the park and provided a structure for the park office and future snack bar. While waiting for construction to begin in summer 2013, Pogo Park built a “Pop-Up Park” to beautify and activate Elm Playlot. Consisting of low-cost, temporary installations such as fencing, murals, stump seating, a sand box, movable toys and a converted shipping container, Elm Playlot’s Pop-Up Park has been a huge success, enabling Elm Playlot to evolve into a community hub for recreation, activities and services.
Construction for the renovation of Elm Playlot is currently underway. Local residents will be building the majority of the park, with professionals assisting with the technical aspects and infrastructure.
Location: 8th Street and Elm Avenue
Current Amenities: swings, sandbox, loose toys, seating, park office, port-a-pottie, homework club, chess club, meal distribution site
Future Amenities: community gathering space, zip line