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Lots for Community Gardens: Save or Not Save

An article in the Philadelphia Daily News on the city’s burgeoning reliance community garden grown food mentions an issue dealth with in many cities creating gardens, but then wondering what will happen to that land when development returns:

The houses that once stood on 49th Street near Brown were built on unstable fill. Decades ago, an underground creek slowly swallowed the fill. Foundations cracked. Sinking houses were abandoned, then demolished. Weeds and trash took over. Years went by. Hard rains flooded the land. Mill Creek overflowed the storm sewers, carrying urban contaminants into the Schuylkill.

The Philadelphia Water Department leased the abandoned Mill Creek lot from the city’s Redevelopment Authority in 2003 for a storm-water management project. “We were in the right place at the right time,” Rosen said of herself and gardening colleague Walker. But a cloud of uncertainty looms on the horizon. The land is still owned by the Redevelopment Authority, so it is always at risk for development. The authority’s 99-year lease with the water department can be terminated at any time with 90 days’ notice.

Rosen and Walker are hoping that the authority will transfer the title to the Neighborhood Gardens Association, a land bank that would protect it as green space and assure that it can continue as a farm vital to feeding its neighbors.

This is a great story about reuse of land for the better. The story does raise the issue, however, that some land perhaps should be returned to development at some point. There is a simultaneous need for the ample supply of nearby land for gardening and preserving opportunities for development of land that can repopulate the city and increase population densities. A garden service area map seems a possible solution that we’ll be looking for — in effect, mapping out each resident’s distance to a community garden. In areas with undersupply, new gardens would be needed. In those with oversupply, lots could be returned or reserved for development. Let us know if you’ve seen something like this and we can feature it in a future post.

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