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Design Students Collaborate to Bring Greenhouse to Senior Residents

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

Volunteer-built greenhouse at Reflections senior housing, celebrated for collaboration with KCAD Urban Collaborative Studio, AARP and Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids.
Dwelling Place staff and residents celebrate the Reflections greenhouse with volunteers and AARP of Michigan and Kendall College

Dwelling Place staff and residents celebrate the Reflections greenhouse with volunteers and AARP of Michigan and Kendall College /Dwelling Place

Kendall graduate students facilitate an engagement session around the greenhouse design with residents and staff at Reflections.

Kendall graduate students facilitate an engagement session around the greenhouse design with residents and staff at Reflections. /Dwelling Place

Finished greenhouse located in the community garden at Reflections: A Senior Housing Community.

Finished greenhouse located in the community garden at Reflections: A Senior Housing Community. /Dwelling Place

Dwelling Place is proud to announce the opening of a volunteer-built greenhouse that will serve Reflections: A Senior Housing Community at 500 Hall Street, as they expand their existing community garden. 

 

As a collaborative project with KCAD Urban Collaborative Studio, AARP and Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids, the addition of the greenhouse enhances the 16 raised beds that seniors have been using for over 10 years to grow flowers, herbs, and vegetables. 

 

Six years with Dwelling Place coordinating volunteers and Lead for the greenhouse project, Brian Molhoek said, “Dwelling Place acquired and renovated the Reflections property into senior housing in 2010, providing 60 apartments for seniors, many of whom were raised in agrarian places, and are keen on squeezing as much nutrition from their raised beds as possible.” 

 

A long-standing relationship with Kendall School of Art and Design promoted collaboration with Kendall’s Urban Collaborative Studio. The Urban Collaborative Studio and Molhoek paired graduate-level architecture students with community partners to work together to imagine new and better buildings and city spaces.

 

“We had the opportunity to see our design ideas built—a testament to the strength of the collaboration between residents, staff, students, and volunteers, who all contributed to the project's success,” said Michael P McCulloch, Assistant Professor of Architecture at Kendal College of Art and Design of Ferris State University. 

 

Funding for the greenhouse project came from AARP Michigan’s Community Challenge Grants, which awards funding to extraordinary, quick-action projects that help build livable communities. “We are honored to present this award to Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids,” says Paula D. Cunningham, AARP Michigan State Director. “We celebrate the opening of their new, accessible, community greenhouse that will provide continued enjoyment for the residents of Reflections Apartments.” 

 

While the new greenhouse will allow residents to be more productive and enjoy year-round gardening, access to natural areas and green space, such as parks and gardens, has been shown to offer a myriad of health promotion outcomes that include restorative effects, such as improved mental health and enhanced wellbeing. “Previously, our seniors got geared up all winter for the planting season, which is generally April through October. Now that the greenhouse exists, gardeners will be able to stay engaged year-round in gardening,” said Molhoek. 

 

Long-time resident at Reflections Apartments, Lorraine Wilson said, “We all had input on the design of the greenhouse. We worked with KCAD students, and they came up with a beautiful design. In the greenhouse we can grow seedlings, cilantro, and herbs. The garden keeps us connected to other people in the building; it’s a good way to connect with friends.” 

 

With a mission to improve the lives of people by creating quality affordable housing, providing essential support services and serving as a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization, Dwelling Place serves families and people in 4 counties across West Michigan. Dwelling Place is powered by volunteers and numerous staff persons, interns, Americorps workers, and guest writers. Thanks to JD Sullivan, Americorps/VISTA CB&E Communications Coordinator for his contribution of this article.

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