MassDevelopment grant to support Turners Falls ‘pocket park’

  • The alley next to LOOT found + made on Avenue A in Turners Falls will be transformed into a “pocket park” thanks to a MassDevelopment grant. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • The Brick House Community Resource Center on Third Street in Turners Falls has received a $9,880 grant from MassDevelopment that will be used to develop a “pocket park” in a nearby alley. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • The alley next to LOOT found + made on Avenue A in Turners Falls will be transformed into a “pocket park” thanks to a MassDevelopment grant. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • The alley next to LOOT found + made on Avenue A in Turners Falls will be transformed into a “pocket park” thanks to a MassDevelopment grant. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 11/28/2021 5:00:42 PM
Modified: 11/28/2021 5:00:14 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Thanks to a $9,880 grant from MassDevelopment, The Brick House Community Resource Center will create a new “pocket park” off of Avenue A that is expected to be complete next spring.

The park, titled “AlleyCulture,” will be nestled within an alleyway between LOOT found + made and Gary’s Coins and Antiques. It will feature three garden pods and room for community events. Each pod will contain a bench and be surrounded by planters. A fourth area, closest to the sidewalk, is intended for occasional outdoor performances.

Landscape designer, Brick House collaborator and project leader Peter Wackernagel said his fantasy of seeing the alley become a park began a long while before the grant came to fruition.

“For many years, I’ve thought of this alley as the perfect place for a pocket park,” Wackernagel wrote in an email. “It has the right spatial characteristics to be a comfortable outdoor room and is only lacking in basic amenities, like places to sit.”

The $9,880 grant is part of MassDevelopment’s “Commonwealth Places COVID-19 Response Round: Resurgent Places” program, which benefits local economic recovery efforts as communities work toward implementing or revitalizing spaces for public enjoyment. MassDevelopment President and CEO Dan Rivera said in a press release that the vision for the pocket park made sense not only in terms of beauty, but also potential economic prosperity.

“MassDevelopment is pleased to help The Brick House Community Resource Center convert an underutilized alleyway into a space that benefits the downtown business district and the Turners Falls community at large,” he said. “By reimagining these types of public spaces, cities and towns can increase foot traffic in their downtown neighborhoods and forge relationships that advance vibrant local economies.”

Wackernagel agreed with Rivera, noting an intention to align the park’s purpose with the broad goals of The Brick House as an organization. Since its founding in 1990, The Brick House has served more than 2,500 residents with counseling programs, education, job training, employment resources and opportunities for building community.

“In addition to benefiting all people who reside in, work and visit Turners Falls, this park will particularly benefit three groups,” he wrote. “It will benefit the downtown business community by creating a new public space in the heart of the business district. Secondly, it will benefit downtown residents. Many people living downtown lack their own outdoor spaces, and this project will create a shared ‘living room’ adjacent to a number of apartment buildings. Third, it will benefit the youth who are helping to construct the pocket park. In addition to providing paid employment, participants learn valuable skills related to horticulture, carpentry, construction and design.”

Youth crew members, who will be tasked with manual responsibilities such as digging and planting, share Wackernagel’s vision and enthusiasm.

“I think the park will benefit the community,” crew member Jasmine Garcia said. “The planters bring easy care to areas with no soil, particularly streets, the public areas, and basically anywhere where you don’t see soil.”

“I look forward to working on the park because I find it fascinating that I have a chance to make a part of history in this town that will probably be here for a while,” crew member Gage Stanislavsky commented. “I also think this will benefit the community by bringing people together ... along with just simply having places people can come to relax and get stuff off their mind to calm down.”

Wackernagel said his team is in the process of building planters and benches in preparation for a spring installation. He hopes to have an opening party for the pocket park in May.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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