About this Sacred Place

Based in Des Moines, Iowa, Urban Dreams works to remove barriers to the success of its community members and help them achieve their goals. With a wide variety of social and community services, and a wealth of experience listening deeply to its community, Urban Dreams is able to provide assistance that is reflective of, and responsive to, community members’ needs.

Using exactly this approach, Urban Dreams redesigned a vacant lot adjacent to their offices. Design elements for the space — not to mention the initial idea for a pocket park — were developed directly from a community asset mapping project done in collaboration with Iowa State University, and include features such as a performance stage, phone charging stations, Percussion Play instruments, a community garden, a little free food pantry, and a small memorial area with fruit trees and other plantings. Through the design process, these elements continued to be added and refined as Urban Dreams responded to the needs of their constituents. Nature Sacred provided Design Advisory Services for this project, working with Urban Dreams and their landscape design team to engage the community in visioning how Nature Sacred’s 4 design elements could be creatively interpreted in this space.

The final design includes as a primary component a stage, which is also used as a hangout spot when it is not being used for performances. In front of it, tiered planting beds planted with grasses and perennials soften the hardscape. The gathering area in front of the stage is spacious and allows for flexible uses. Along one side of the site, a mulch pathway trails through Percussion Play instruments and then through a double row of limestone block seating. On one end of that pathway, between it and the street, a large pine tree and memorial boulder serve as a recognition of Urban Dreams’ founder; on the other end of the pathway lives the Nature Sacred bench. A water fountain and electrical outlets, much-needed resources for their community, help make the site responsive to their needs. Raised planters add a defined yet permeable edge between the site and the streetscape.


Design Team:

Jack Sullivan, Nature Sacred Design Advisor, University of Maryland, working as an advisor to Whitfield’s Lawn and Garden Specialists.

Randy Whitfield and Catum Whitfield, Whitfield’s Lawn and Garden Specialists

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