Believe it or not, you are part of a movement. Around the world communities are coming together to positively influence the way their city develops. The campaign to buy the dog is an amazing opportunity to be part of this movement and contribute meaningfully to the future of the west. If we are successful, it will not only save an iconic building and ensure it remains open for community use, but it will also mark the beginning of an exciting new phase for the site and build stronger community connections.
To prove we are not alone and that it can be done, we have collected a few inspirational stories from around the world. They show us what can be achieved if we all work together and remind us that we should “never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead).
We hope they inspire you to be part of our very own movement #letsbuythedog
HIGHLINE, NEW YORK CITY, USA
An elevated rail line through New York City was left derelict for many years and was set for demolition. Two local residents noticed the value in the old track, as it started to regrow native vegetation and decided to form the ‘Friends of the Highline’ group. The group grew in size and began to advocate for its preservation and reuse as an area of public open space. With the help of an online photo campaign, people began to realise the beauty of the old structure and what it could mean to the city. A fund-raising campaign was organised and raised more than $150 million for the track’s re-use!
Today, the highline is a beautiful 2.5km long park that connects some of New York’s most well known neighbourhoods. It hosts community functions including art installations, performances, cafes and education workshops on sustainable gardening and all proceeds from the events are reinvested into the park. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the city and has even encouraged the re-development of vacant lots in the neighbourhood.
The high-line reminds us that just because something is old, doesn’t mean it cant add real value to the community. It is one of many examples that show what can be achieved when communities work together for something that is important to them.
WESTWYCK, BRUNSWICK, VICTORIA
In the 1980s, Brunswick West Primary School had lost all its students and was facing closure. The site’s heritage overlay was removed and the property was up for auction by the early 90s, with the looming threat of demolition. The auction was chaotic, with protestors objecting strongly and calling for the money raised through the sale of the site to be returned to local education. Following the auction, a group of five local people banded together to create the WestWyck consortium and were able to buy the school and set about finding a productive use for the site.
Many uses have been tested and explored at Westwyck including music and drama performances, conference facilities and rentable community space. The most successful use for the site was a communal housing complex, providing welcoming long and short-term accommodation for more than 80 people.
The main focus of residential accommodation at Westwyck has been shared facilities, with the design layout encouraging interaction between the diverse people that call the place home. It encourages new relationships to form in a world of segregated 21st century urban living. Westwyck has now evolved into Australia’s only One Planet Living Community – ensuring the development, its population and their lifestyle positively influence climate change, the environment, the local economy and the social ties that bind us together.
CHILDRENS FARM, COLLINGWOOD, VICTORIA
The site of the Collingwood Children’s Farm was once home to a Convent that provided shelter and education to orphans and the sick. As the site was close to the Yarra River, the property was also used to grow fruit and vegetables for the people living on the site. In the first 50 years of the Convent being open, more than 8000 people had lived, worked or gone to school on the site forming a huge social connection and sense of ownership to the area.
The Convent eventually closed and the cost of refurbishment was too much for the government, resulting in the sale of the land to private developers in 1997. Community priorities led to the preservation of both the Convent and the surrounding land.
A community committee with the help of the Council has now leased the area for the Childrens Farm. The farm aims to provide the opportunity for children living in inner city areas to understand and care about the land and animals and often calls on the help of the local community and business owners to maintain the area.
The Farm is run by a group of hard working volunteers with all entry fees and donations being invested in the ongoing maintenance of the farm. It now works on educating the broader community about permaculture, landcare and organic farming and runs markets, a cafe and events for other community groups.
Written by Adrian Cagana