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Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 9:00 PM
Updated Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 1:11 AM

Laney-Walker revitalization project includes neighborhood 'pocket parks'

Staff Writer
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
A bulldozer sits in a cleared lot where a small park will be constructed after a new residential unit is built on the adjacent lot, bringing more green space to the urban area.
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Small but mighty – that’s how urban design experts describe “pocket parks” such as the one recently completed as part of the Laney-Walker neighborhood revitalization project.

A patch of landscaping on Florence Street near recently constructed duplexes and houses is part of an urban concept that adds green space to a neighborhood. Two more pocket parks are planned for Heritage Pine, the development that jump-started the revitalization effort.

“We are dusting off some of those old assets that were part of communities 15 to 20 years ago,” said Hawthorne Welcher, the assistant director of Housing and Commu­nity Development, the city department overseeing the Laney-Walker revitalization.

The tiny park on Florence Street isn’t big enough for groups to loiter in and has just enough space for neighbors to walk dogs or have a conversation, he said. For those who want to play basketball or tennis, the recently renovated Dyess Park community center is available.

The pocket parks are a step in the right direction, but Laney-Walker needs more park and recreation space, said Mike Davis, an architect from Boston.

Davis visited in July to lead a team of national experts in sustainable urban design that was assessing Laney-Walker.

“The alternative to a pocket park is often an abandoned lot,” Davis said. “It’s a huge and better use for a tiny space of land where otherwise you would put a Dumpster.”

Pocket parks are common in urban locations and denser cities where a space isn’t big enough for a building or parking, he said.

The study led by Davis recommended three types of green space in Laney-Walker: public parks surrounded by businesses; recreational space for sports or festivals; and green space for crops and urban farming.

Each pocket park costs between $5,000 and $8,000 to build, and the final two should be completed next summer or fall, Welcher said. They will be maintained by the Recreation, Parks and Facil­ities Department.

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