By Executive Director Chloe Learey
September and October have been busy with campus planning, and we are putting our grant from the Thompson Trust to good use. It is inspiring to feel the energy and support of the many people helping us in the process, from staff to campus tenants to at-large community members. Some interesting ideas are being explored for the future of making the campus sustainable.
Recruiting for the campus task force happened in late August and early September and resulted in 22 people from across the community committing to being part of the planning process over the next few months. The task force is focused on four main areas of research: real estate, infrastructure, community integration and financial analysis. The framing question is. “How can we achieve short-term financial stability and alleviate capacity pressures on Prouty in order to support the development and implementation of a long- term plan, without limiting the plan’s possibilities?
In addition to developing the task force, a community visioning meeting was held on September 25th to invite big ideas about what could be on the campus. There was also a meeting with tenants, and Prouty staff brainstormed possibilities for the future at a recent meeting. All the ideas generated will be considered by the task force as they work on creating a proposal for the Prouty Board of Directors with short and long-term initiatives to answer the question.
The creative ideas that have been generated range from small (have a coffee cart on campus) to large (develop affordable housing for families), and it is striking that many ideas are the same across the different groups that have done brainstorming. Some of those include: a residential program for women in recovery who also have young children; indoor recreational space including a pool; connecting elders to children through housing or programming; community garden space; using the commercial kitchen to support events on campus; and develop solar. These are just a few of the dreams that have arisen, and they need to go through different filters (i.e. campus vision, community needs and sustainability) to see what shakes out. This is the work that is happening now on the task force, and the goal is to have reached some decisions by the end of November to forward to the Board.
One of the most exciting outcomes of the process, though, is one that may be hard to quantify. It is the power of what can happen when you bring together a diverse group of people to tackle an initiative, and the thinking that is generated is greater than the sum of its parts. Having bankers, town planners, real estate agents and developers, non-profit directors, energy experts, landscape architects, engineers and business people come together to talk cross-sector about what our community needs and how we might meet those needs with a resource like the Prouty campus is an incredible opportunity. The connections that are being made between different entities will bear fruit long after campus planning is complete. Large community challenges seem insurmountable when we face them on our own, but when we come together with our collective wisdom solutions can begin to emerge. My greatest hope after making sure that Prouty is well-positioned for the next 50 years is that this planning process generates other iterations of how we can take action together to build the thriving community we all hope to see.