Organizations seek to transform Holden Heights with bikes and food

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Photo by Alexey Lin

The East Central Florida Regional Planning Council (Website) was just awarded a $100,000 grant as part of a new Cycles and Sprouts program in the Holden Heights neighborhood. This project is one of six separate projects that were awarded funding from the Aetna Foundation.

Cycles and Sprouts is a collaborative effort through the partnership of the UF CityLab Orlando program, Good Food, Holden Heights Community Development Corporation, Playground City, and Kaley Square, that will teach Holden Heights residents about bicycle safety and repair and how to grow their own food.

Kaley Square director, Demetrius Summerville, expressed to Bungalower how important it is to teach nutrition and gardening skills to the people he serves in his community, which he described as a food desert. Summerville also noted that roughly 12% of properties in Holden Heights are vacant, and that community programming that could transform those lots into something productive and useful for his neighbors was essential.

“The focus is always on the Parramore neighborhood, but what about Mercy Drive and Holden Heights? they need help too.”
– luis nieves-ruiz

Luis Nieves-Ruiz of the ECFRPC explained how the new program will place two shipping container “transformation labs” on vacant properties near the Center that will act as remote classrooms for workshops and ongoing community programming. One will specialize in cycling and bicycle repair and the other in food and community agriculture. The latter will also be a part of a community garden.

The shipping container hubs are being provided by CityLab Orlando, an off-campus program run by UF’s Graduate School of Architecture. Bungalower actually visited their fabrication studios in Downtown Orlando last May HERE to see what they had created.

This two-year program is in the early planning phases as the organizations gather information from the surrounding community on how best to serve their needs. They plan on hosting a number of community events in the coming months and to have the hubs in place by summer 2018, pending City approvals.

Programming curriculum will be planned and carried out by Playground City.

Nieves-Ruiz told Bungalower that he hopes their work to transform a distressed community through improved food and cycling access could be used as a national model.

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