Does Keisha and Jamal’s neighborhood pass the “Popsicle Test”!
Well it depends where Keisha and Jamal live. The Popsicle test refers to the ability of an eight-year old child to walk to the store, buy a popsicle and get back home before it melts. A neighborhood passes the test if a child safely gets home before the popsicle melts. Such a neighborhood is characterized with features such as sidewalks, speed bumps, and well maintained stores. On the contrary, a neighborhood that is void of sidewalks, looks like a food desert and the only store available is a gas station is very likely not to pass the popsicle test.
Scott Doyon (2011) in his article “smart growth= smart parenting” stated that it’s going to take a parent, a councilman and a developer to raise a child. He further stated that if something works for a child, then it works for everyone else. This is true with reference to the state of conditions in the neighborhood, especially for communities struggling with blight. In 2013, the ADP Field Test surveyed 256 communities in Atlanta where there are over 17,000 blighted homes in the city of Atlanta. 30% of these communities are labeled as vulnerable, declining and fragile. A number of factors can lead to the declining of a neighborhood and one of them is disinvestment which impacts on a neighborhood negatively.
Now that the economy is recovering, real estate developers are working feverishly to have their plans approved by the local planning offices to build out and beat the next recession. Some communities’ residents will witness major transformation but that will be through gentrification. However, many others will be faced with further decline and parents will have to wonder everyday if their children made it home safe from school and or the store safely. For such a community facing a continual state of decline, and no corporate dollars flowing, a viable solution is to buy one house and work with a local artist to rehab the house and dedicate it to a specific space.
In south Chicago, after repurposing a blighted home, Theaster Gates used his background as an artist to create the Listening Room. In this space there are listening parties where members from inside and outside the community participate in conversations about the art and its impact. The success of the first project led to the acquisition of two additional abandoned properties and he worked with the community to repurpose those spaces into the Reading Room and the Black Cinema House. The Black Cinema House hosts screenings and showcases films that portray the African-American experience.
Impressed by Gates work, Johnson Housing Corporation donated acomprehensive collection of Ebony and Jet magazines. This archive was then used as the library for the Reading Room a house which he rehabed . In the following years, Gates has received grants and generous donations to continue his work but now for larger scale revitalization projects.
From Popsicle test to Theaster Gates, the only hope for a community on the decline is for one person to rise and start seeking creative opportunities for the community. This can be achieved by repurposing a neglected space and thiswill help attract those from outside the community to turn around the state of affairs. If the community neglects the safety of children, then very seldom will someone from outside think about making their neighborhood prepped to pass the Popsicle test.
Funky Grammar Proper Nouns is a start-up real estate development company and working to change the narrative around blighted communities.
Sabine Taylor is the founder of a startup real estate development company that is seeking to re-develop blighted neighborhoods. She aims to use the arts to encourage community engagement by helping residents discover their gifts, skills, and talents to flourish and improve their community.
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