Community garden sprouts in downtown Mesa - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Community garden sprouts in downtown Mesa

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Posted: Saturday, July 7, 2012 6:14 am

The first tangible improvement to result from the iMesa initiative sprouted Thursday as the city broke ground on a downtown community garden.

The 15,000-square-foot site could eventually host dozens of gardeners who will grow produce for a broad array of consumers, including local chefs, food banks, community organizations and individuals.

The garden was one of the most-suggested ideas that flowed into the iMesa program for transformative projects in the city. Mesa had six garden proposals come in and chose one by the Mesa Urban Garden, whose board of directors includes professionals with backgrounds in sustainability, urban planning and another garden.

The garden will include rainwater harvesting and solar panels to provide power to the site, said Drew Trojanowski, the board’s chairman.

“It becomes a green feather in the cap of Mesa,” he said.

The garden is on city-owned property at 212 E. First Avenue, next to the Mesa Municipal Court. The city will lease the site to Mesa Urban Garden for five years, at $1 a year.

Cities often allow urban gardens on vacant land as a transitional use in downtowns where redevelopment efforts haven’t fully gained momentum. But the City Council likes the concept so much that several members said they want to ensure the garden lasts beyond its original lease terms. Councilman Dave Richins wants the city to treat the area like it’s a park, and he said it will help transform the area.

“It’s not just about vegetables,” Richins said. “It’s about revitalization.”

He and Mayor Scott Smith said they don’t want to see the garden bulldozed simply because a developer pitches a development plan there. Smith said it was “sad” to see an urban garden in Tempe forced out when a hotel developer began a project this year.

“You know you might have that pressure,” Smith said. “And that’s a great pressure to have.”

The garden has generated interest from residents and businesses. One is Republica Empanada, which Marco Meraz plans to open this fall next to the garden. He’s on the garden’s board and plans to use produce in his menu while having a patio that overlooks the site.

The garden will open Sept. 11, when volunteers complete improvements for the National Day of Service. While Trojanowski is overseeing the garden, he’ll do it from afar. A U.S. Army corporal, Trojanowski is beginning a year-long deployment to Afghanistan on Sunday. He’ll watch progress via satellite with a team of 12 Mesa soldiers.

Trojanowski said the garden will engage people in a part of downtown that doesn’t have as many offerings as what’s north of Main Street.

“South of Main has really never had anything to rally behind,” Trojanowski said.

The garden’s website is www.mesaurbangarden.com.

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