The owners of a Phoenix coffee shop turn to community members to help transform a vacant lot into a “pocket park.” Co-owners Laryn Callaway and Christiaan Blok raised $23,000 to cover the landscaping costs, which include Chinese pistache trees, seating and a patch of lawn where they plan to offer Yoga and other classes. The couple hopes to collaborate with Arizona State University students to build a communal table and benches to promote more community gathering and an urban green space.
Ted Simons: Phoenix has a new urban park thanks to some coffee lovers. Producer Christina Estes and photographer Juan Magana take us there.
Laryn Callaway: Our business is Shine Coffee, my husband and I are the owners.
Christiaan Blok: We started about a year ago. And we conceptualized the business as a walk-up bar --
Christina Estes: It didn't take Christaan Blok and Laryn Callaway long to realize that their shop wouldn't be a grab and go kind of place.
Christiaan Blok: I grew up on the coast.
Christina Estes: Instead they created a destination for people who live and work in midtown Phoenix.
Laryn Callaway: I'm looking at a couple of hundred peoples' homes across the street. Right on the street, right on the sidewalk. People walk up, park their bike, park their car and come and talk to us, order their coffee, and there is really this open exchange going on.
Christina Estes: But there was an early problem. A pretty ugly one.
Laryn Callaway: This was a lot of old concrete and broken concrete.
Christina Estes: A rough lot didn't encourage much hanging out, so they brainstormed ways to create a welcoming outdoor space. Laryn immediately dismissed the idea of a fenced-off patio.
Laryn Callaway: Because we're in this urban environment, closeness, proximity, and interaction are really innate components of why people want to have a business or live here. So, it just felt really contradictory to do something that was exclusionary.
Christina Estes: They transformed the 1933 pool house into their coffee shop, now they needed to turn a neglected piece of land into a pocket park, a pocket park built on private land but accessible to the public.
Laryn Callaway: In 25 days, we raised $23,000 from 312 backers on the kickstarter campaign.
Christiaan Blok: We were delightfully surprised. People want to better their community. They want to see lovely spots like this where they can sit and it is wonderful to see people now enjoy this space.
Christina Estes: They planted desert-friendly trees that will provide summer shade, installed an irrigation system and put out lighting, tables, and chairs.
Laryn Callaway: We expanded the sidewalk 2 feet so that now people -- two people with their 2 dogs can walk down our little patch of sidewalk.
Christiaan Blok: They also added a patch of grass where they plan to hold yoga classes, movie nights and other events. Still to come, more furniture to encourage more community interaction.
Christiaan Blok: It is very communal, big table, some benches, people instinctively look for that. They instinctively look for a place to sit, to be, to be centered.
Laryn Callaway: We love the neighborhood. We love the opportunity to be a business that people could walk or ride the light rail to and we love the idea that we're part of pioneering this really cool infill project of retail in mid-town.
Ted Simons: Shine coffee is planning a grand opening party next month to thank their customers and those who donated to the park.