Tyler Hicks at the new Pocket Park. Photo by Jordan Hefler.

Capital Heights’ ‘Pocket Park’ proves good things come in small packages

Every neighborhood has that one eyesore. In Capital Heights, it was a small lot overlooking a drainage canal between Mouton and Longwood streets. A TV news story captured a resident calling the lot “dirty” and “overgrown,” a blemish in an otherwise attractive area.

Tyler Hicks, president of the Capital Heights Neighborhood Association, credits Jacob Newsome with seeing the big potential in what Hicks says was “essentially a concrete slab.” “He brought it up at a neighborhood association meeting: what if we turned this lot into a park?” recalls Hicks.

It was a perfect way to fight blight, a problem occurring when community spaces are neglected, triggering decreases in property values and upticks in crime. A Mid City Redevelopment Alliance grant provided the momentum to get Newsome’s park plan in action. Lumber and materials were bought with donations from local businesses, and 30 volunteers provided labor. “This couldn’t have been done without the support of the neighborhood,” Hicks maintains.

The newly minted Capital Heights “Pocket Park” is just 20 by 30 feet—living room-sized—but it packs picnic tables, planters and an elevated mixed-use area, the trappings of any park. And, like any other park, it fights blight, beautifies the area and provides space for residents to meet their neighbors.

This project doesn’t end in Capital Heights. Hicks says that Metro Council member LaMont Cole has expressed interest in building more tiny parks across his district. And Mid City Studio Creative Director Lynley Farris plans to have locals converting city parking spaces into temporary “parklets” for the upcoming Park(ing) Day, set for September 16. Big things, it seems, sometimes do come in small packages.