Johnsons Park Initiative builds resilience in a Milwaukee neighborhood.

Center for Resilient Cities and diverse local groups collaborated to create sustainable green space and urban agriculture in the Lindsay Heights community’s only public park and adjacent public elementary schoolyard.

From 2005-2016, Center for Resilient Cities partnered with the Lindsay Heights community to create the Johnsons Park Initiative, an effort to strengthen the neighborhood’s resilience by combining sustainable green space and urban agriculture with revitalized economic and social strategies. The Initiative focused on three adjacent properties: an 11.5-acre Milwaukee County Park, a two-acre community garden and a 4-acre elementary schoolyard. The Initiative transformed vacant property and acres of asphalt into spaces that contribute to quality of life for the neighborhood’s residents.

Guided by our unique, holistic approach to crafting resilience, we focused our efforts on:

Johnsons Park is a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site. In 1955, much of the neighborhood was demolished for a highway construction project that was eventually abandoned.

Activating People & Partners

Working at the invitation of the Lindsay Heights neighborhood, we engaged residents, community groups, local government and funders in ongoing conversation. We focused on place-making: How could we collaborate to make the Johnsons Park spaces meaningful, valuable and useful to the people who live nearby?

Transforming Places

The Johnsons Park Initiative has created sustainable spaces where residents gather with friends and family to enjoy nature and outdoor recreation. The Park design included improved storm water drainage and energy efficient lighting. In Alice’s Garden, improved garden plots help more than 100 households grow their own organic produce, strengthening the community food system. A green schoolyard and an outdoor classroom contribute to students’ engagement in learning at Brown Street Academy.

Learning Informs Action

The Johnsons Park Initiative stands as a catalytic model for the greening and revitalization of other neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

Alice’s Garden • Brown Street Academy and Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee Community Learning Center • Center for Resilient Cities • City of Milwaukee • Johnsons Park Neighborhood Association • LISC-Milwaukee • Milwaukee County Parks • Preserve Our Parks • Rotary Club of Milwaukee • Walnut Way Conservation Corp.

Anon Charitable Trust • A.O. Smith Foundation • Baird Foundation • Jacqueline Herd-Barber & Michael Barber • Brewers Community Foundation & Rickie Weeks • The Brico Fund • Peter W. & Joan Bruce • Diane and David Buck • The Buck Foundation • City of Milwaukee • Community Benefit Trust Fund • Gretchen & Andrew Dawes Charitable Trust • Arthur J. Donald Family Foundation • Ralph Evinrude Foundation • Faye McBeath Foundation • Forest County Potawatomi Foundation • Friends of John C. Walker • Fund for Lake Michigan • Greater Milwaukee Foundation • Greater Milwaukee Foundation: Bucyrus Foundation, Inc. Fund, Ceres Foundation, Inc. Fund, Gerda A. Debelak Fund • Evan & Marion Helfaer Foundation • Herzfeld Foundation • LISC-Milwaukee • Lowe’s Charitable & Educational Foundation • Martin Family Foundation • Milwaukee County • Milwaukee Public Schools • Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District • George & Julie Mosher Family Foundation • Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation • Preserve Our Parks • Rotary Club of Milwaukee • Joe & Mary Ellyn Sensenbrenner • Daniel M. Soref Charitable Trust • David & Julia Uihlein Charitable Foundation • USDA Forest Service Urban & Community Forestry Program • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Urban Forestry Program • Wisconsin Energy Foundation • Weiss Family Foundation • Rick & Mary Grace White • Zilber Family Foundation

The Johnsons Park Initiative is supporting the development of healthy, resilient people and healthy, resilient places. Learn more about these Initiative project areas: