Worcester Common Ground uses a stakeholder input model to determine projects of priority in the neighborhoods where we work. While our core focus is on promoting resident homeownership as the most effective means of neighborhood stabilization, we look to residents, lenders and funders to advise us in the pre-development stage such that the most appropriate mix of housing options can be created relative to community needs. Our property pipeline development is ongoing and we are actively acquiring lots and buildings at this time.
One of our more recent purchases was 7-9 Jaques Avenue, two empty lots on the corner of Jaques and Ethan Allen Street that abut a first time homeowner property. All three properties are located across the street from Chandler Community Elementary School. The two empty lots (which WCG believes formerly housed residential buildings) are used by pedestrians as a footpath and, particularly during summer months, as a dumping ground. Having been a source of neighborhood frustration for a number of years, WCG transformed the vacant lots into our third EAT Center site -- it currently includes an urban orchard (in partnership with the Worcester Tree Initiative) as of May 2014, and eventually, a sustainably-powered bioshelter (designed in partnership with Worcester Polytechnic Institute students).
Progress on Jacques Avenue
In September 2014, 10 Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) juniors, along with 3 faculty advisers from WPI's Center for Sustainable Food Systems, joined forces with Worcester Common Ground to transform a vacant lot in the Piedmont area of the city into an inviting, attractive community space that will encompass an urban farm, a communal wood-fired oven, a permaculture inspired garden, and a bioshelter. Bioshelters are special kinds of greenhouses adapted for food production that rely on renewable energy, heat generated by compost and/or thermal mass, but not fossil fuels, to grow food year round.
A digital rendering of the potential bioshelter (above)The WCG-WPI collaboration is a compelling example of how the technical resources of a university can be used to encourage and serve local community development. In turn, the project enables engineering students to experience firsthand what it's like to work at the intersection of technology and social need. Thus far the students have reviewed current bioshelter designs, conducted a solar analysis of the site, and calculated heating requirements to maintain growing conditions even through Worcester's harsh winters. But their work is not focused solely on technical matters; our students are also designing the bioshelter to suit the needs of local residents as well as the Bhutanese farmers from News Lands Farm who will eventually be managing the site.
-- Written by Robert Hersh, Director of Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Sustainable Food Systems Project Center
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Worcester Common Ground, Inc. 5 Piedmont Street Worcester, MA 01610 USA508-754-0908
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