The former stomping grounds for an Irish mafioso will soon become common ground for Collinwood residents.
A mural reading “Kaboom!” now marks the spot where mobster Danny Greene’s apartment was bombed in 1975. The site was razed afterward, and the lot at 15803 Waterloo Road has sat vacant ever since—until now, with plans for a new pocket park in full swing. The park is a project of The Collinwood Collective, a grassroots group of neighborhood residents and merchants intent on building vibrancy within the Waterloo Arts District.
The Kaboom! lot next to Cakes by Sweetwater“The bombing rocked the entire storefront and destroyed it—there’s a lot of lore and history there,” says Jeremy Langham, co-founder of The Collinwood Collective. “We hope to activate the space and provide a place for [Collinwood residents] to enjoy each other and all the street has to offer.”
As envisioned, the 35-by-40-foot space will include picnic tables; solar string lights to illuminate the space; and a giant hopscotch board. Langham hopes the park will not only provide a gathering place, but also a new means of supporting small businesses in the Waterloo Arts District—especially with the need for more outdoor space due to COVID-19.
“People can grab pizza from Citizen Pie or coffee from Six Shooter and hang out at the pocket park on a nice day,” says Langham.
The Collective is hopeful that the plaza park will be ready for use by fall, with work occurring as soon as liability insurance has been secured and paperwork signed. Langham considers this year “phase one” for the space, with plans to add programming and new elements including a backdrop and a small stage in 2021. “In the future, we’d also love to obtain a storage container from one of the railway companies in Collinwood and retrofit it into a community-owned greasy spoon/late-night restaurant option,” shares Langham.
The lot is located on the property of Cakes by Sweetwater, owned by Elbert Gary. According to Langham, Gary is leasing the property to The Collinwood Collective for a nominal annual fee of just $1 a year, and the project has also been made possible by a $5,000 Neighborhood Connections grant awarded in 2019. Dumpsters.com is donating a dumpster for asphalt removal, and a Collinwood resident will be donating the use of an earthmover.
Newman and Langham at the siteLangham says it’s due to their generosity and the dedication of volunteers behind The Collinwood Collective that the project is moving forward. He and Sam Newman first joined forces to launch the nonprofit organization back in February 2019, and it is now 48 members strong, including local heavyhitters such as Cindy Barber of Beachland Ballroom; Amy Callahan of Waterloo Arts; Peter Brown of Six Shooter Coffee; and many more.
“Within five days of my initial conversation with Sam, there was a groundswell of excitement and interest—it really grew organically,” says Langham. “Our mission was to focus on beautification and the elevation of all things Waterloo Arts, and it blossomed into a snowball effect that brought out the best in different residents and merchants.”
Over the last 18 months, The Collinwood Collective has held a series of neighborhood cleanups (including a recent collaboration with the Clean and Green trailer); launched the Winterloo winter festival; and engaged in beautification projects along Waterloo Road. As Langham sees it, the pocket park will be a major step forward in the group's mission to further the arts district's momentum.
"I have deep ties to the neighborhood and strongly believe in it," says Langham, who was born on the border of Euclid and Collinwood off East 185th Street. "This pocket park has been a dream of mine for a long time."