The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Monday announced it is amending construction plans at its 33rd Ward so as to save at least some of a community garden space that was previously slated for demolition.
The Church intends to expand its parking lot at the meetinghouse to accommodate another ward. That lot was first planned to be installed over a garden area that hosted dozens of small urban growing operations since the mid-1970s.
Though the land is owned by the church, gardeners – some church members, some not – protested the decision, arguing the space was too great a benefit to the neighborhood.
Church officials have been working closely with members of the East Central Community Council and recently informed them that plans have been adjusted to reduce the number of new parking stalls from what was originally anticipated,” said church spokesperson Irene Caso. “This adjustment will allow for more than half of the vacant lot to remain accessible to the neighborhood for gardening. The future parking requirements of the building will continue to be evaluated as needed. The Church hopes this gardening tradition will continue for the foreseeable future, growing both produce and neighborhood relationships.
In response, Jeffrey Barrett, who gardens on the plot, issued the following statement:
The gardeners are only just hearing about these developments over the last couple of days, and we welcome the Church’s engagement, and its apparent willingness to seek to preserve as much of the garden as possible. We have yet to be contacted by the Church directly, but we have two meetings this week to hear from them, and to begin discussing the next steps. One of those meetings will be the East Central Community Council’s monthly public meeting, this Thursday at 7 p.m. at Judge Memorial High School. We are pleased that the Church has recognized the value that community gardens bring to the community, and we hope that our engagement going forward will build relationships and lead to an outcome that the Church, the gardeners, and the neighborhood can be proud of for decades to come.