Proposed pocket park in vacant lot near Shine Coffee approaches funding goal of $22,000

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(Thomas Hawthorne/DD)

Shine Coffee owners Laryn Callaway-Blok and Christiaan Blok are at the forefront of a movement to fund the development of a pocket park in the lot next to their business space. The project needs to raise approximately $5,500 by Sunday in order to meet their goal. (Thomas Hawthorne/DD)

When Laryn Callaway-Blok and her husband, Christiaan Blok, started Shine Coffee, originally a mobile espresso bar in a 1957 Airstream trailer, they had no idea that two years later they would plan to build a public “pocket park” in the vacant lot next to their permanent location.

The Vernon Avenue Pocket Park is in its funding stage. The goal of the project’s Kickstarter page is to raise $22,000.

The project must raise $5,500 more by Sept. 29. If the goal is met, Laryn and Christiaan will break ground on the park immediately.

Pocket parks, increasingly being developed in urban areas, are small parks accessible to the public.

Hard times fell on the couple in 2008 at the onset of the recession. But they began catering events with Shine Coffee and in October 2012 they moved into a permanent location on Central and Vernon avenues.

“We created Shine Coffee for two reasons,” Christiaan said. “One, out of sheer necessity; and two, because we loved coffee.”

The idea for the Vernon Avenue Pocket Park project started with the vacant dirt lot between Shine’s walk-up coffee bar and its inside seating area.

Christiaan and Laryn said they felt making a space for the whole community was beneficial, and the best way to see if the idea was good was to let the community decide. They posted the project in crowd-funding website Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is an online program where people can post ideas and receive donations for their projects. However, if a project does not meet its goal, none of the money raised goes to the project.

“I do like their all-or-nothing policy,” Laryn said. “Some people don’t, but the reality is that we have a budget and if we don’t get the budget it is not going to be the same project.”

Other businesses in the local community have jumped on board to promote the park’s construction. Olivastro Oils & Balsamics, a local olive oil tasting bar, committed to donate 10 percent of sales from Thursday Sept. 19 to Sunday Sept. 22 to the Kickstarter campaign for the Vernon Avenue Pocket Park.

“This space will enrich lives and bring an even stronger sense of community to the downtown area,” said Aubrie West, co-owner of Olivastro Oils & Balsamics. “My husband and I lived on Vernon Avenue for several years and we are excited about the possibility of turning an empty lot into a pocket park.”

Shine Coffee has also hosted an event with Short Leash Mobile Hot Dog Eatery to raise money for the project. Laryn also planed to have more events in the final days of the campaign to help reach the goal. For example, Laryn is providing free breakfast items and pastries to backers.

Once the park is built they hope to have live music, Tai Chi classes and dramatic one-act plays performed in the outdoor space.

“I work right up the road and come to Shine Coffee a couple times a week,” visitor Joe Carter said. “Once the weather gets nice, I would like to come hang out here.”

Christiaan and Laryn said the goal for the pocket park is to further the development of culture and to help make Phoenix feel more like a small town.

“This area needs that undefined space to enjoy being part of urban life in downtown Phoenix, having the trees and a place to sit,” Laryn said. “I think it is all going to come together.”

Contact the reporter at kusie@asu.edu