I'm interested in this whole concept. This guy
used to be the "City Designer" for Davenport, and I heard him speak a couple times. Basically, he is a big advocate for making streets and neighborhoods "walkable" - which basically means slowing traffic down a bit, and making pedestrians feel safe crossing the street or walking along it
. So it's simple things like lining streets with trees, adding bike lanes, converting one way streets to 2 way, etc.
This makes me laugh, because I have lived this.
Closer to my house, there are 2 vacant lots that the city owns. They are the low spot in our neighborhood. The city is trying to work with our neighborhood group to put in some kind of "pocket park" there. We are also looking at gardens and rain barrels for that site. Basically, it would end up being win/win if it works out right. The city is having to pay for snow removal and mowing on these lots right now. They are willing to put up some capital for maybe a small playground, trees, benches, etc. But they are trying to reduce their maintenance costs by asking our group to help with the mowing and stuff. It will be interesting to see how it works out.
This is essentially what transpired with our little park, though the Alderman was the impetus. He basically gave our block the park under the condition that we would take care of it. Our landlord is NeighborSpace, part of the Corporation for Public Land (both 501c3 orgs), and our operating entity is Friends of Burling Park. We have raised nearly $8,000 over 3 years for capital improvements, and it has really turned out well.
But it takes a small group of highly motivated people to make this happen. You need grunts like me to mow lawns, pull weeds, prune trees, etc., and people who are good at fundraising, communications, and web promotion. It's a lot of work. You won't always get people who will thank you (some fool will always gripe about some decision), and most people will kind of take the whole thing for granted. But it's worth the effort to improve your neighborhood.