UW features 6,000-square-foot garden at Monica’s Village Place

The University of Washington posted a news brief recently about the garden at Monica’s Village Place, a Catholic Community Services housing project at 23rd and Main. The 6,000-square-foot garden was created with the help of UW Professor of Landscape Architecture Daniel Winterbottom and 12 of his students.

They also produced a video, featuring some of the people involved with the project (note: you may need to crank the volume):


From UW:

For four years, the garden at Monica’s Village Place was no more than a dream and a Post-It note tagged to Evelyn Allen’s computer.

Today, though, the garden runs the width of a block at 23

rd Avenue South and South Main Street in Seattle’s Central District. It’s the centerpiece of a new low-income housing complex built by Catholic Community Services.

Daniel Winterbottom, a UW professor of landscape architecture, and 12 of his students worked with Allen, director of Catholic Housing Services Village Spirit Center, and a group of her residents, to design and build the 6,000-square-foot garden.

“I wanted a place where families could unwind,” said Allen, director of Monica’s village, which includes 51 apartments ranging from studios to three bedrooms.

Named after the mother of St. Augustine, Monica’s Village houses black Americans who have been homeless or at risk of being so. Catholic Community Services wants to decrease homelessness via a package of support services that go with apartment rentals.

To rent an apartment, the person must first have a dream, indeed real desire, to change whatever prevents him or her from having a stable life. And a garden can be a place to encourage that desire, to reconstitute oneself and one’s family, said Winterbottom, who specializes in therapeutic gardens.

The garden at Monica’s Village includes three “rooms”: a play space with a rubberized floor; a gathering area with benches and cooking space; a quiet arbor tucked away at the rear.

To encourage community pride, pictures and quotations from people well known in the black community, people like jazz musician Quincy Jones, have been stamped onto brushed stainless steel pillars and planted around the garden. A map of the Central District with key African-American places such MLK Way and the Douglass Truth Library is painted onto the playground surface.

The garden has turned out well, but designing and building in a third-floor courtyard was a challenge, Winterbottom said. Nothing, for example, could be massively heavy because the garden sits atop a parking garage. And since watering must be done by hand, plants had to be drought-resistant. There also needed to be both communal and individual gardening space. A series of raised beds have been set aside for the community, and galvanized metal tubs have been assigned to individual residents.

Several months after the spring dedication, Winterbottom returned to the garden. Surveying the work, he said, “A house is a roof over your head. A home is a community, a place to encourage that desire for community and a place to nurture it.”

11 thoughts on “UW features 6,000-square-foot garden at Monica’s Village Place

  1. Attend to the “garden” out back too…

    With the short cool summer, the groundcover along 24 runs the risk of been overrun by weeds.

    Please see that it is not.

  2. I never realized that this project is only for African-Americans.
    Is that legal, or desirable?

  3. I’m white, have dreams and need housing as I will be homeless by the end of Nov. I am jobless and desperately looking for work. Sorry, but this is racial discrimination–for if it were established strictly for caucasians there would be an uproar within the community. CCS may be well-intentioned, but they are misguided.

    I am a middle-aged starving student, and when in school fulltime am unable to work enough to even pay for a room to rent. (The coursework is brutal and excedssive.) I have dreams too! Where do folks like me fit into this???

  4. I worked on the development team for this project and I want to be clear that this project is NOT only for African American families. It is open to homeless and low income families and individuals of any race who meet applicable income criteria. While the project and the garden specifically celebrate the history of the African American community in the Central District, and CCS anticipates serving a large number of African American families (who suffer from a disproportionately high level of homelessness), CCS is marketing and leasing the units in full compliance with the Fair Housing Act.

    Here’s the language directly from the project’s management plan, as approved by state and federal funding sources:

    It is the policy of CCS to comply fully with all Federal, State, and local nondiscrimination laws, and with the rules and regulations governing Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity in housing and employment.

    CCS shall not deny an individual the opportunity to apply for or receive housing at the Monica’s Village Place on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, creed, national or ethnic origin, age, family or marital status, handicap or disability, ancestry, gender identity, political ideology, sexual orientation, or veteran status.”

  5. Just so you know….I know someone that lives there and they happen to be white! No discrimination there so calm down folks

  6. Sorry. But if this project is to make all people, regardless of race feel as welcomed as anyone else, I feel it should not focus on celebrating ONE particular racial group’s history. Turn it around and imagine if a project states it’s adherence and promotion of Fair Housing and inclusiveness yet decided to embrace and showcase the history of the Scandinavian or Germanic tribes. Or Cuban or, or Mexican, etc… Not my idea neutrality.

  7. I understand how Devon might take away from this post the idea only “black people” are given the chance to live at the site:

    “Named after the mother of St. Augustine, Monica’s Village houses black Americans who have been homeless or at risk of being so….”

    Someone should give the U a little crap for poor writing, not CCS for bad polices. Another reminder that language is powerful, even typos and poor sentence construction.

  8. I hear your point, Lazara, but I don’t think that celebrating one racial/ ethnic group’s history is fundamentally unwelcoming to people of other ethnic backgrounds. Other neighborhoods celebrate their cultural histories- Scandinavian heritage flags fly in Ballard, Asian architectural influences are evident in the International District. Why shouldn’t projects in the Central District celebrate the neighborhood’s rich history as the heart of Seattle’s black community? I think the garden nicely ties the project to the neighborhood’s history and identity. It is also a great tool to educate neighbors and residents (no matter their ethnicity) about this history.

  9. I don’t know about that. I mean, you are not even allowed to advertise that a rental is near a church or school, or you get busted by Fair Housing. No implication of selectivity is allowed. And in addition to the text of the article, one of the students in the video clearly stated that they were designing the project for the Black community. (I am sure that will now be edited too.) I think their position is shaky.

  10. @Meghan. The example you provided reflect and celebrate the cultural history and makeup of a community that is for public show. Monica’s garden is for it’s inhabitants. It seems a very private and intimate message. So for a project that is serving those in a very vulnerable position and in need of a life change, I would have chosen something that is more general and welcoming to all. Nature in itself can be quite uplifting and comforting. I would not have seen the need to include images or celebration of only people of one race or cultural history. To show and celebrate people of different cultures who have overcome adversity to achieve greatness might have been more appropriate. I think the selection of this design exemplifies the true intent of the project which is stated in the article: “Monica’s Village houses black Americans who have been homeless or at risk of being so.” Honestly, I have no problem if the project wanted to focus on one ethnic group. If so then the garden’s design is appropriate. But if it is truly to welcome all, then I think a mistake was made.