Begun as a pilot program in 2011, the Lakewood Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative aims to promote green living standards through civic engagement and community wellness. Residents enrolled through targeted neighborhoods develop fun and engaging events in the spirit of the city’s sustainability goals, while at the same time building a stronger sense of community.
In northeast Lakewood, the Two Creeks neighborhood is classified as a food desert because a substantial number of residents lack access to a large grocery store within a half mile of their homes. This area of Lakewood also has some of the lowest incomes in the city, with some census tracts showing a level of poverty as high as 21 percent of the residents. It’s the city’s highest minority neighborhood, and many Hispanic residents in northeast Lakewood speak Spanish as their first language. When the City started a conversation with the neighborhood in 2013 about strategies for enhancing Two Creeks, the discussion was focused on a particular goal: finding ways for residents to safely and conveniently access the places and services they use daily within a 20 minute walk or bicycle ride and by using the Sheridan Station on the W light-rail line as a hub. This Sheridan Station 20-Minute Neighborhood Implementation Strategy was a planning effort funded by the HUD Sustainable Communities Initiative, and it included a native Spanish speaker to work with Spanish speakers in the neighborhood. This endeavor sparked participation from numerous Two Creeks residents including those who had never participated in such planning processes before, and the neighborhood residents quickly and easily identified key priorities: better access to fresh, healthy food, and the desire for a community gathering space.