City of Monroe and UW-Madison UniverCity Year awarded Alliant Energy Foundation Community Grant

December 1, 2019

Nelson Institute partner, UniverCity Year and the City of Monroe have been awarded a $5,000 Alliant Energy Foundation Community Grant in support of their efforts to develop a pocket park in downtown Monroe, Wisconsin. This project is a part of the UniverCity Year program, which establishes three-year partnerships between a local government and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in an effort to address community challenges and create better places together. During this partnership, the Green County Development Corporation worked with the UniverCity Year staff to identify community challenges and then match those needs with a UW-Madison course where faculty and students worked with community members to identify potential solutions.

In this case, the City of Monroe identified a need for more public green spaces that would allow for human-environment interactions and provide infrastructure for an active community. This particular challenge was matched with UW-Madison Faculty Associate Eric Schuchardt, who worked with co-instructor, Distinguished Faculty Associate Shawn Kelly, students in their Landscape Architecture 610 - 611: Senior Capstone course, and community partner Main Street Monroe to develop ideas for green spaces, including this small outdoor space known as a pocket park.

“The more our students can interact and engage directly with community stakeholders in real-world design and planning projects the better,” said Eric Schuchardt, project instructor and Faculty Associate in the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture. “By collaborating with UCY, our students were provided an authentic professional development experience that can’t be duplicated in traditional learning environments. In return, communities received design assistance from our students that helped them identify and prioritize their existing needs, and ultimately envision a more equitable and sustainable public realm. This award is a testament to UW-Madison’s continuous commitment to working with communities throughout Wisconsin and helping them improve their natural and built environments.”

Ultimately, the pocket park, which will also include a restroom facility, was proposed to enhance the experience of residents and visitors enjoying nearby Badger State and Sugar River Trails. While additional funds are needed to build the park, this Alliant Energy Foundation Community Grant will help to support efforts to move this initiative forward.

"We're thrilled to receive this grant and to have worked with the entire UniverCity team,” said Jordan Nordby, Executive Director of Main Street Monroe.  “Alliant pours incredible resources into our communities. We're humbled they chose Main Street Monroe as a recipient so we can further our community development efforts.”

As the project moves forward, Main Street Monroe will work with the Department of Natural Resources through the Stewardship Local Assistance (LUG) and the Federal Land and Water Conservation (LWCF) to secure the land and the additional financial backing needed to complete this project. Additionally, the Univercity Year staff will continue to provide in-kind support, helping with project management and connecting the Monroe community with UW-Madison students and faculty as needed.

“This is exactly the kind of situation we imagined,” said Gavin Luter, Managing Director of UniverCity Alliance. “UniverCity Year students worked with the City of Monroe to reimagine the downtown area through parks and green space, and now we have a unique opportunity through the Alliant Energy Foundation to help move the community closer to that vision. This is truly an example of a UCY success where we leveraged our connections to move forward community priorities!”