Old East Common
Building Common Ground
Building Common Ground is a community green space located in the Old East Area of London, adjacent to the LIFE*SPIN Housing Initiative. For a full history of its development, please read below:
Phase I (2006)—Community Planning & Design
Phase II (2007)—Garden Shed/ Storm Water Reclaimation System
Phase III (2008)— Tree Planting 20 Shade Trees/ Garden Fencing North
Phase IV (2009)— Patio Garden Fencing North & South
Phase V(2010)— Garden Entry Arbor & Garden Fencing South & East
Phase VI (2011)— Accessible Pathways
Phase VII (2012)—Garden Gate Youth Project part 1
Phase VIII (2013)—Youth Project& Solar Fountain
Phase IX (2014)—Living Roof Shed
The Building Common Grounds Project was initiated by LIFE*SPIN in 2006. The project began when a dilapidated house, located at 423 Ontario Street, just behind LIFE*SPIN, was removed and an empty lot was created.
LIFE*SPIN conducted neighbourhood surveys, visiting residents at their homes, to gain critical insight into the pressing needs in the community that could make use of this space for the benefit of the residents. A recent study conducted by the Geography Department at the University of Western Ontario, confirmed the neighbourhood input that there is currently not enough recreational green space in the Dundas corridor area where LIFE*SPIN is located.
LIFE*SPIN decided to act on the input received from the community, and began to develop a community green space that may be utilized by the community. Aeolian Hall hosted a community forum, where residents and business owners came together to literally map out their visions of the space. A landscape design architect had agreed to assist with the with the design and left the forum with the collection of designs. Gabrielle Sanio of MicroEnvironments came back with scale drawings that incorporated the many features sketched out at the forum.
Old East Common is filled with native plant species; trees, shrubs, bushes, and flowers. This space also provides seating for people to come in, sit down, and enjoy a conversation with friends or family. Furthermore, the centre of this space will be open, such that community events and activities can take place. For example, the park area can accommodate a garden education program for youth, homework clubs, single parent meetings, open theatre, a skating rink, or movie nights. Due to the unique functionality of the space, groups and organizations will be able to work with LIFE*SPIN to facilitate classes which teach other skills, such as yoga or tai chi.
Everyone is welcome!
Construction of Garden Shed by Beal Secondary School Students
LIFE*SPIN also sought the support of the City of London- Watershed Department, BJ Plumbing, and LeFleche Roofing, who offered expertise that enabled LIFE*SPIN to be a pilot project for an innovative watershed program in our temperate zone. Businesses and condominium owners in the London area have expressed interest in implementing watersheds into their construction plans, but local expertise with weather appropriate technology needed to be developed. LIFE*SPIN assembled the research and the component experts to bring a pilot into fruition. We hope to share the experience and knowledge of this technological innovation with other families and businesses interested in implementing climate responsive watersheds into their own projects in the future. This pilot project allows the community garden to run on collected rainwater, helping to enhance the sustainability of the project in the future.
Once the watershed system was completed, LIFE*SPIN hosted a "Community Dig." Through the generous donation of Green Valley Recycling we had 40 tons of topsoil donated to our building project. More than 50 volunteers from the University of Western Ontario and the community came out and help us spread the topsoil and spend a day building community. It was also a great day to spread the word through action about our local initiative and what has been done to date.
Phase III: 2008
In the fall of 2008, Old East Common saw the planting of 20 trees with the help of ReForest London and Western Serves students. It was a great day of community gathering, as we saw members of the community come together to build this common space. This year also saw the development of an 80 foot fence along the one side of the garden courtesy of Home Depot. This fence ensures that the garden space is free from debris from the adjacent parking lot. At the same time, Home Depot employees also erected what soon will be our basketball net. A gap in programming for area youth was identified by local youth agencies. The basketball net may provide some self-developed programming in the neighbourhood.
20 Trees Planted With ReForest London and Western Serves
Front View of Old East Common
The summer of 2008 was also the first season that we ran our Pocket-Sized Farm Program in the Old East Common Space. In the past, LIFE*SPIN had run this program utilizing school properties and involved parents, students and teachers. Once the local green space was accessible in the Old East Area, LIFE*SPIN was eager to run the program out of its own backyard. Pocket-Sized Farms is our summer gardening program for low-income children that we provide free of cost. More than just gardens, these mini-farms are a source of healthy, nutritious food, an opportunity for environmental restoration, and a well of inspiration for children, facilitators and parents. The "Pocket-sized Farms" program is specifically designed to benefit children by allowing them to meet some of their own nutritional, learning, and health needs. This is achieved in a setting that promotes healthy eating, learning-by-doing, teamwork, and an active lifestyle. The program is specifically geared to children entering or leaving grade 3, as literacy difficulties can be identified and addressed with positive approach that builds self-esteem. Mornings are spent in the Old East Garden, where participants plan and plant their own organic garden, and tend to it over the summer. Afternoons are spent out in the community, introducing the children to local resources for recreation, art, music and the like; helping them identify their own individual talents.
Yoga in Victoria Park
Phase IV- 2009
The summer of 2009 was a year of further developments in Old East Common, bringing the project closer to fruition. Over 500 square feet of patio stones were donated by Landstar and Company. Darcy, a local resident and owner of Stone in Style, a brick laying company, donated time and resources to lay the foundation for our patio. In the end, a great seating area was created in Old East Common, where members of the community come together. Since the development of the patio, we can often look out our office window and see members of the community enjoy the green, shady space; youth and seniors are particularly fond of the space on warm evenings.
The greening of Old East Common in the summer of 2009 came to being because of the influx of plants and shrub donations from the community. Past clients and members of the surrounding community donated unused plants. The creation of a memorial garden also took shape, when a tenant in our housing initiative planted two rose bushes in honour of her mother and sister who had passed away. Since then, other members of the community have started to plant in memory of their loved ones, and come weekly to tend and water them. Seeing these community-initiated developments is great testament to the fact that we have reached our goals with the development of Old East Common; a community green space for the community by the community. Ownership is truly being taken on by the surrounding members, adding to the sustainability of the space.
Our Pocket-Sized Farm program also continued for a second year with great success. Word spread about our program and the number of participants increased.
Phase V- 2010
This past summer many exciting developments took place. Home Depot once again came through and created a wonderful fence along the north side of the garden and also a wonderful entrance to the garden with an archway and rod-iron/wood fence. Structurally the space is really taking shape and by the end of next summer most installations should be in place.
We were able to secure funding to install recycled rubber pathways to the garden, which will make our space wheelchair accessible. These pathways will be installed Fall 2011. Bill Hodgson, of Hodgson’s Originals, who created the metal trees downtown, created a wonderful donor plaque for us that displays the names of all those who donated to Old East Common. This wonderful piece of art will be erected in Fall 2011. Bill is also a member of the Old East Community, so we are excited to showcase his art.
Donor Plaque, done by Bill Hodgson, was erected in May 2011
Home Depot Staff in front of the New Entrance to Old East Common
Pocket Sized Farms flourished in its third summer! Farmtown Canada, a farm located in Alymer, which provides a week-long day program, introduced our little farmers to farm animals in a rural setting. We invited 50 children from low-income families in the area to join us in this exciting opportunity for a full week of camp. This was a great addition to our program, which focuses on the agricultural side of food production.
Children's Square Foot Gardens 2010