Gardens to heal and inspire a community!
by Toby Barazzuol on Friday Oct 8, 2010

Aviva Community Fund - Strathcona micro gardens

Eclipse Awards is located in Strathcona, a diverse light industrial/residential area of Vancouver that, over the past few decades, has become characterized by lots of concrete, barbed wire, fences and barred windows.   We've come to believe that this harsh and sometime cold environment contributes to the many social challenges we face in the area - it certainly doesn't instill any sense of inspiration or improvement!

So a few years ago we built our first garden on the street outside of the Blueberrry Building at 121 Heatley, our office at the time.  Our goal was to soften the streetscape and create a healthier and more beautiful space that could be enjoyed by everyone that lived and worked here. 

We hired some students to dig out the dead soil and replaced it with rich organic soil and promptly planted it with flowers and lavender.  We didn't know what to expect, but we were surprised and amazed by the reaction of the people in the community - they loved it!  In fact, they loved it so much that they wanted to start taking care of it and protecting it.  Once they saw that other people were taking pride in their environment, they started to do the same - respect nurtures respect

To this day, this little stretch of land is used continually to plant flowers and vegetables by people with no access to land or nature.  In terms of size, its only a small strip of garden, but the lessons we learned have been huge.

Since that time over 5 years ago, we've trucked in over 12 tons of organic soil to build 2 street level gardens and 2 green roofsWe've created over 4500 sq.ft. of new green space and contributed to projects like the SOLEfood urban farm getting off the ground.  It's simply a part of how we contribute to and integrate with our community, and part of developing the Strathcona Green Zone.  It's also how we measure the value that our company creates and part of our regenerative marketing.
Heatley Street Community Garden by Eclipse Awards

In fact, just today we're working to complete our 3rd street level garden.  We created the planter box completely out of reclaimed materials and leftover membranes that we had from our latest green roof.  We partnered with another Strathcona company doing great green things, (read Emma's "Crawling Toward Sustainability" blog series in GranvilleBruce Carscadden Architects, to share in the delivery of soil as they are also building a garden in front of their office.  One things we've found is that moving soil is neither cheap nor easy - it can take a lot of hard work to get it into place!  Today in the rain we enlisted the help of Diamond Dave, our local man in the field and a front line soldier in keeping our streets clean...nice work Dave!

To try and multiply the number of gardens in our community, the Strathcona Business Improvement Association has applied to the Aviva Community fund for $80,000 in funding to help build dozens of micro-gardens.  Imagine the inspiration of seeing this community bloom and grow as the heart of the greenest city in the world!  Imagine the jobs we can create!  Imagine the world that you want to live in!


We've reached the semi-finals and are now up against 30 other projects.  Starting December 2nd, we need your votes and support to make this happen!

You can help us make this a reality by logging on to the Aviva website, registering, then returning to the Strathcona Community Micro-Gardens project place to vote.  You can vote once a day from December 2nd 9am PST unti Decemer 15th, and every vote counts!

Can gardens really help to change a community?  We believe they can by providing beauty, inspiration, and a connection with nature.  So help make Vancouver's Downtown Eastside a vision of what is possible  - vote and spread the word!

Planter Garden by Eclipse Awards

Chris Mathieson - Wednesday Oct 13, 2010 at 6:46pm PST
Strongly in favour of this initiative... maybe it's time to pull the paving stones off the flower bed in front of the Police Museum, where I work...
Sophie Agbonkhese - Wednesday Oct 13, 2010 at 1:50pm PST
I'm really happy to hear that the collabo with Carscadden worked out Toby. Chalk one up to the Strathcona Connects workshop.



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