Leaders of a quiet Over-the-Rhine civic garden that harvests produce like peaches, tomatoes, garlic and blackberries to sell at Findlay Market are worried they could be forced to relocate after calling the same spot home since 1998.
CitiRama, a partnership between the Cincinnati Homebuilders Association and the city of Cincinnati that holds annual or biannual home shows on chosen urban plots of land, has proposed that the lot at 1718 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine, which currently houses the Eco Garden project (run by local nonprofit Permaganic), be amended to instead house the site for its next event, which would force the garden to relocate.
The Livable Communities Committee yesterday was presented a memo submitted by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls from City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., recommending that the Eco Garden lot, which is currently subletted to Permaganics for its Eco Garden program by the Civic Garden Association (CGA), be relocated to a larger area so the site can be procured for CitiRama.
The parcel of land is actually owned by the city of Cincinnati, but the city leases a number of parcels to the CGA for their use. According to the memo, the lease between the city and the CGA expires in 2015, but grants the city the power to terminate the lease at any time if another use for the land arises.
The area containing the Eco Garden has been targeted as the next CitiRama site by the city’s Department of Community Development (DCD), the main controller of the property. According to Dohoney’s memo, should the Eco Garden be forced to move elsewhere, the DCD would fund the garden's startup and relocation costs.
For Angela Ebner, executive director with Permaganic, that’s not a sufficient compromise, but she’s hopeful the parties can reach an agreement by demonstrating that the Garden's OTR existence is actually of value to CitiRama, which is seeking out forward-thinking potential homeowners invested in fostering positive urban cultural experiences.
“We think they’re (CitiRama) interested in working with us because we think they’re interested in working with that demographic of eco-friendly people. I’m pretty certain they’ll be accepting of the fact that we do a really good job of reflecting the needs and values of people in the community,” she says.
CitiRama's events are designed to attract potential homeowners and developers to pinpointed plots of land in hopes of reviving urban areas with new housing opportunities, but there's also a heavy focus on sustainability. The most recent CitiRama event, which opened at Virginia Place in Northside (located at the intersection of Virginia and Chase avenues), took place in Sept. 2012.
The Eco Garden exists to “create experiential learning opportunities for inner-city youth to cultivate self-reliance, job skills and an entrepreneurial aptitude by cultivating a market garden to grow fresh, healthy vegetables and herbs for direct sales at Findlay Market," according to a Permaganic Facebook post. They recruit local at-risk teens for a unique job readiness program, which allows the teens to work in the garden in exchange for a stipend.
Supporters of Permaganic and the Eco Garden are concerned that moving the garden would cause disrupt not just to the crops that have grown for the past several years, but also the fabric of the neighborhood, particularly the at-risk neighborhood youth who see the space as a "home away from home."
Ebner and supporters are currently waiting for word from the city in hopes of moving forward on a compromise.
“We want a green, peaceful, healthy world for everyone’s children,” says Ebner. “That’s the bottom line.”