26 Apr ECC 2020 Reconnect: What Is Monicque Up To?
Emerging City Champions (ECC) is a fellowship program led by 8 80 Cities. ECC provides young civic innovators with leadership training and $5,000 in seed funding to launch transformative projects to enhance public space, urban mobility or civic engagement in their city.
This year’s fellowship has overcome more over the last six months than any other over the past six years. In early 2020, the UN recognized COVID-19 as a worldwide pandemic. This shift in how we organized and operated changed dramatically. By the time we virtually met our 20 young leaders from across the United States, we already knew this situation, the world’s situation would create a lifetime bond for all of us.
We are happy to share their achievements in their first six months of implementing their projects. Despite the challenges of the times we are living in, they have strived to continue pushing forward. This is a testament to their endurance. We are so proud of their accomplishments.
ECC is powered by 8 80 Cities and supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Visit emergingcitychampions.org for more.
Virginia Park Community Lot
Monique Becker is a real estate developer and community organizer. She is the co-founder of Mona Lisa Development, a socially responsible development firm with property management, consulting and general contracting capabilities. “A certified Detroit-Based, Detroit-Resident and Women-Owned business, we are committed to extending opportunities to others in our community to preserve place and people in the creation of neighborhood masterpieces” says Monicque.
One neighborhood masterpiece they are currently collaborating on with the community will transform three vacant, underutilized and undermaintained Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) lots into a community-owned gathering place. Located on the block where Becquer lives, she and her neighbors plan to create a versatile space where neighbors can relax, recreate and connect on things important to them. The immediately adjacent neighbors plan to purchase the lots for $100 each through the DLBA’s side lot program, two of which are now available for purchase. They will then contribute the land to the block project.
“Since winning the ECC grant, my housemates and I hosted a yard sale and were able to raise $2,200 additional for the project. Those funds were used to hire a landscape architect. A fellow Detroit 2020 ECC Champ recommended this architect, who actually lives in the neighborhood. Before beginning the design process, we held a community meeting in my yard in November. It was semi-well attended, but most of the older community members and long-time residents either did not come or did not stay long. This did not surprise me, however, given the cold weather and challenges of COVID-19”, she adds. They usually catch up about the project and share ideas and updates when they see each other on their porches, via phone calls and text messages or spending hours outside when the weather is nice. Monicque also shared that the process slowed down a bit, but she was able to hand-deliver concept designs to her neighbors so folks will have time to sit with the ideas and provide feedback at a later date. As the weather warms, engagement will ramp up.
This spring and summer, Monicque and team will begin to implement the plan in a phased approach – “doing what we can with what we have. We will work with our neighbor and ECC alum, Kyle Bartell and his organization, Sit On It Detroit, to create a community posting board and picnic table moveable furniture that will allow us to have some activations and continued engagement at the site”. They have begun to price out the improvements and have identified a few additional grant opportunities. In May, they will host another yard sale to raise additional funds & uplift engagement.
“Our block will prove that the skills exist within our neighborhood to create the beauty and utility that we want to see. We are excited to launch this project and prove our Virginia Park Community is capable. This project is meant to serve as a replicable model for others seeking to transform DLBA vacant lots from eyesore to amenity” tells Monique with a smile.
You can follow Monicque’s work on social media: IG: @of_monique; @monalisadevelops.
Visit her project website to learn more.