The more nature, the better, for Ben Swarts. A couple of years ago, when he moved his business, Hardshell Fitness, into a former gas station on 38th Street at Longfellow, Swarts “threw” some seeds down behind the building. Today that space is a beautiful wildflower garden. Now he looks at the gray expanse of paved parking lot in front of the building and sees potential for bringing more nature to the cityscape. He envisions native plants, trees and shrubs, all functioning to help cool, provide shade and soften the street sounds.
To that end, Hardshell Fitness is taking part in a project involving Metro Blooms and Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center (CAFAC) that provides resources to small businesses that help to enhance the vitality of the 38th Street corridor. We do this with native plantings and pollinator-themed art used in rain chains, topiaries and trellises. The project is funded by the City of Minneapolis Great Streets program and through donations.
Swarts tries to bring nature with him wherever he goes. Like he did at Hardshell, he planted perennials at his home when he moved in several years ago. Now there’s a small native meadow that includes butterfly weed, bee balm and coneflower. “They’ve been re-seeding and growing and doing their thing,” Swarts said, “and they’re so beautiful, so powerful and robust.” Pollinators abound.
Last fall, Metro Blooms removed invasive plants and filled in some plantings at Hardshell. Metal artwork from CAFAC will be woven into the fencing.