For years, Chris Reed would drive by the vacant lot in his neighborhood wondering what could be done to make the dirt patch more pleasing to the eye.
Then he got the idea to plant a garden and talked to his University Hills neighbors about it. They liked the idea so much that 85 of them decided to pitch in.
Some residents gave up their weekends to shovel dirt and plant shrubs. Others served lemonade. It took them about a year to complete Garden Park, but their diligence has paid off. Not only is the garden the neighborhood's most popular gathering spot, it recently received an award of excellence from American Institute of Architects Orange County chapter.
"We tried to make it distinctive, something reflective of the neighborhood," said Reed, a chemistry professor at USC. "In Irvine, I found kind of a sterility to the planned neighborhoods. Everything sort of looked the same.