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):
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.”