Monday, August 10, 2009

Save The Historic Hawthorne Community Garden!

Photo By Jeff Skrenes

There are two community gardens bearing the name "Hawthorne" in the Hawthorne Neighborhood. One of them sits on a piece of property which just went into tax forfeiture. Now the fate of the garden appears to be up in the air.

The "South Hawthorne Community Garden" is wildly successful, and has frequently been mentioned on this blog, click here for an example. That garden DOES NOT sit on a piece of tax forfeited land. "South" is part of the name of that garden to distinguish it from the OTHER Hawthorne Community Garden, which is called the "Historic Hawthorne Community Garden." The "historic" garden is the one now sitting on land which has reverted to the county...

Getting the word out by use of the information dissemination tool which IS Johnny Northside Dot Com, Jeff fired off the following email today, as follows:

A resident in Hawthorne called me today and informed me that the Historic Hawthorne Community Garden went into tax forfeiture recently. The garden is located at 2820 Fourth Street North. This resident claimed there were notices posted telling people not to trespass on this property any longer, and that it was now owned by the county. Either the notices were sent in the mail to people in the area (or to people who had been tending the garden), or somebody took the notices down. Nothing was posted when I went by.

However, I did check the city and county websites, and it appears that the property is indeed owned by the county via tax forfeiture. The previous owner was City Garden Trust, at 1081 10th Ave SE, Minneapolis 55414. No one in the community is sure right now if they can legally go in and tend to the garden, keep things looking nice, and pick their wonderful looking tomatoes they've worked so hard over. I'm putting some feelers out, but if there's anyone who knows a specific person to contact about this, please use the comment threads on the blog or contact me directly at 612-529-6033 x204.

(JNS adds: here is a Facebook album of pictures Jeff took of the garden, click here)


Dottie Titus said...

Perhaps Hawthorne can take a leaf out of Jordan's book/experience. Jordan's community garden at 26th and Knox used to be a slumlord property. JACC used NRP funds to purchase the property and have it demolished. The cost to the neighborhood was, I think, over $20,000. The neighborhood then transferred the land to CPED for free.

When the corner of 26th and Knox was at its worst for drug dealing and crime, someone(s) suggested a community garden could go on the vacant lot. After some discussion and negotiation and JACC obtaining liability insurance, the city granted permission for the garden. CPED still held title.

In 2004, the city was trying to get rid of the large number of vacant lots that it was holding, selling many of them to developers. The JACC community garden was a treasure by then, and the community was concerned that CPED would sell it out from under them. JACC approached the city to see how they could get the title to the property back so they could ensure it continued as the community garden. CPED offered to let JACC buy the property for $10,000. Yes, the lot that JACC had already paid for and paid to have the building on it demolished and then given to CPED for free--CPED would sell JACC the lot for $10,000!

Needless to say, there was a huge outcry against the city. Eventually, thought it took over 18months to accomplish, JACC bought the community garden back for $1. The contract stipulates that if JACC ever stops using it as a community garden, the property reverts to CPED, but basically the property is now protected by being in JACC's hands.

I don't know if Hawthorne can attempt a similar purchase, but perhaps if the taxes owed aren't too high, Hawthorne could purchase the property through a tax sale, or could ask CPED to obtain the lot from the county and then look at purchasing the lot from CPED to maintain the garden.

Community gardens are vital pieces of beauty here in Nomi. We have little in the way of lakes, but the random community gardens one comes across when driving through Nomi are real day-brighteners.

Of course, the down side is, at least for Jordan, that the city immediately began assessing property taxes on the community garden plot even though it is owned by a non-profit and used to benefit the community. It also has benefited the city indirectly by reducing crime and increasing eyes on the street. But no good deed can go unpunished, especially not in Minneapolis.

K said...


Does JACC then pay the property taxes each year? I'm curious how this all works and if they do where does the money come from? I doubt NRP funds could be used.