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Developers Eye West Philadelphia Community Garden

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[Photos by Laura Kicey.]

On December 19th, part of the community garden on West Philly's South St. Bernard Street is going up for sale. The gardeners are very much afraid it will get snapped up by developers. The 15-year-old community garden straddles two separate plots backing up on the tracks for SEPTA's Media/Elwyn line. The plots are listed in the city's records as 1008 and 1010 S. St. Bernard Street, with the same delinquent owner going back to the late 1970s.

While the owner has been ignoring her property, local gardeners have been busy. "We have over 50 plots, with two common herb plots, lots of flowers and a couple fruit trees," said Trevor McElroy, one of the 50-odd people who gardens on South St. Bernard.

Now McElroy and his fellow gardeners are working with Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell to try to get the city to buy the land at auction so the gardeners can stay. But if the city is outbid by developers, all those lettuces and tomatoes will be homeless.

The land is more valuable now than it was when the garden started in the late 1990s. City records show that the house across the street from the garden sold for $300,000 in 2010. Even the odd triangular plots the garden sits on will be a temptation for many developers, though we're guessing West Philly's gardeners have serious grassroots fundraising chops.

The group has a website where people can donate to the cause. McElroy said the group has raised slightly more than $10,000 so far, with a total goal of at least $50,000.