$10M grant to build ‘community resilience center’ at Harbour-8 Park

$10M grant to build ‘community resilience center’ at Harbour-8 Park
Toody Maher, executive director of Pogo Park, stands in front of the future Harbour Hall. (All photos and video by Kathy Chouteau)

By Mike Aldax and Kathy Chouteau

A growing park in the heart of the Iron Triangle will soon become a community resource hub throughout the year and during emergencies thanks to a new, $10 million grant.

California’s Strategic Growth Council recently awarded the grant to the Pogo Park, the nonprofit staffed by residents of the Iron Triangle that works to turn underserved spaces into flourishing neighborhood parks.

The grant is being used to create Contra Costa County’s first Community Resilience Center (CRC) at Harbour-8 Park, located at Harbour Way on the Richmond Greenway.

Pogo Park began transforming Harbour-8 Park from an underutilized two-block stretch of the Greenway about a decade ago, installing children’s play areas, community gardens and other amenities. The nonprofit also created and maintains a separate park oasis called Elm Playlot at Elm Avenue and 8th Street.

In 2017, Pogo Park received a $1 million grant from the Chevron Richmond eQuip Economic Revitalization Initiative to launch Pogo Park Products, a for-profit social enterprise that enabled Pogo Park to contract with city and county governments on park projects. In 2020, the nonprofit won $8.5 million in state funds to continue expansion at Harbour-8 Park.

The latest $10 million state grant will continue the growth of Harbour-8 Park by establishing the CRC, which will provide shelter and resources during emergencies, as well as year-round services and programming that “strengthen community connections and build resilience.”

“This CRC grant is a game-changer for Richmond,” said Toody Maher, executive director of Pogo Park. “It will create a world-class CRC in a neighborhood with the highest need for emergency services and preparedness.”

The City of Richmond, Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council, and RichmondCERT will collaborate on Pogo Park’s “Harbour-Hall CRC” project. The project includes $6 million to retrofit Harbour Hall, a 3,500 square foot community center currently under construction. The retrofit will provide Harbour Hall with back-up power, water, food, communication and support during emergencies. A commercial kitchen, green landscaping to filter stormwater and a small information station in the middle of the park are also part of the project.

The CRC will additionally invest $3 million in programs and events that build social connectivity and prepare residents for emergencies. The remaining $1 million will be used to evaluate the program and provide general support.

Pogo Park will lead Richmond’s CRC project.

“Pogo Park will be a critical partner in facilitating the expansion and implementation of emergency preparedness programs and initiatives in the Iron Triangle community,” said Richard Diaz, Richmond’s emergency services manager.

Richmond Councilmember Soheila Bana added, “The impact from this huge investment in public safety will raise awareness throughout the community and the larger county and provides a model to local governments from the entire county and beyond as a practical solution.”

James Anderson, a local resident and Pogo Park staff member, said it’s been amazing to watch his community change and develop.

“Having a place where people in the Iron Triangle can go during an emergency makes me and my family feel safe,” Anderson said. “Being part of Pogo Park’s efforts to improve Richmond is truly a blessing.”