Samantha Lee Smugala of Pocket Parks on Imagine a Place podcast

A sketch that changed St. Louis

Samantha Lee Smugala is doing important work in St. Louis. She’s the founder of Pocketparks, a non-profit that is reimagining and reinvigorating the vacant lots that are scattered across St Louis Neighborhoods. For Samantha, it all started with a simple sketch that caught the attention of the local news and eventually propelled her to think bigger about what’s possible. Samantha’s story behind Pocketparks is unique and entertaining. But, it’s the challenges she faced as an entrepreneur earning the trust of others that make this episode so valuable. Her story is full of lessons and insights that will help you grow.

A bit more about Pocketparks: Pocketparks is a non-profit organization that reimagines and redevelops unused plots of land to provide communities with active and beautiful recreational areas. Through community engagement, each park is designed to meet the specific needs of the neighborhood in which it is located. Every park incorporates three things: activity, artwork, and opportunity. Pocketparks are small, but make a big impact.

By focusing on small outdoor parks, we can quickly provide a positive impact without extensive resources. Pocketparks not only offers beautiful recreational areas, but works to increase safety, boost community pride, and contribute to economic development. Pocketparks is a platform that reactivates outdoor areas to build up the ecosystem of communities and weave vibrant spaces into our urban fabric. Established in St. Louis in 2021, Pocketparks is working to activate local communities and plans to grow into a network of parks that sprawl across the city and eventually expand to other cities and states. As a non-profit organization, Pocketparks relies on donations to support its efforts.

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Urban and city planning
  • Design for cities and communities
  • Neighborhood design for good
  • Healthy community design

More about Samantha Lee Smugala: 

Samantha has a diverse background in marketing, design, and strategy. Her career has led her to work for both small and large firms, with projects ranging from logo design to go-to-market strategies. Samantha has worked across industries in education, healthcare, hospitality, entertainment, and manufacturing. Samantha’s mission with Pocketparks is to activate and beautify city streets by reimagining and redeveloping underutilized plots into beautiful recreational areas for the community.

Samantha Lee Smugala of Pocketparks on the Imagine a Place podcast

Related Imagine a Place episodes:

Andrew Alford (Andrew Alford Creative): Living Your Most Colorful Life

Christian Giordano: Design is due for reinvention

James Kerrigan (Jacobs): Culture, place, and tools: The future of place making


  • Doug Shapiro
  • Samantha Lee Smugala
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