ITHACA, N.Y. –– The future of Ithaca’s community gardens seems a little brighter.

Project Growing Hope, a “not-for-profit membership organization devoted to furthering community food self-sufficiency,” has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with developers of Carpenter Circle.

“It’s a memorandum of understanding, so it’s a nonbinding agreement, but it lays out the terms for how we are going to work together in the development process,” said Marty Hiller, president of project Growing Hope. 

The land that the community garden is located on is owned by the city and Cayuga Medical Center owns the rest of the vacant lot. CMC leases the land to Park Grove Realty. There are plans for four buildings to go in on Carpenter Circle –– a medical building, two mixed use buildings that have retail on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors and one affordable housing building. 

According to Hiller, as part of the memorandum, there will be a land trade between the developers and the garden. 

“They’re going to take a part of buildable land from us and swap it with non-buildable land,” Hiller said. “They’re going to pay money towards our reconfiguration costs and pay for new infrastructure to replace what we have now when we move into the new configuration.”

Due to power lines running through the property, there are areas that are off-limits to developers for construction. 

“We cleared the railroad side gardens so that they’re ready for construction, and we’ve moved all those people into temporary space on the highway side,” Hiller said. She said  that no one will lose any opportunities to plant in the gardens. 

The community gardens memorandum is part of a bigger effort by Hiller and Project Growing Hope to increase their presence across the city. 

“The kind of change that we are hoping to see over time here in the city is developing more of a network of community and neighborhood gardens so that wherever you are in the city you’re relatively close to one,” said Hiller. “And we’ve got this one big established one that already has a long term membership and we’re also located in the middle of a growing neighborhood.” 

With a more permanent location, construction of the new flagship GreenStar nearby and close proximity to the farmers market, the historically working-class Northside neighborhood has access to something similar neighborhoods across the country lack –– convenient access to healthy and locally sourced food. 

“We’re right near the farmers market,” Hiller said. “Part of what’s happening is with GreenStar moving closer and our position being secured, what we have here is three community nature institutions within a block of each other that are all oriented towards local food. And so I’m seeing that as something that creates character for the new neighborhood.”

While hammering out an MOU is good news for the community gardens, the $63 million project still has planning hurdles to clear before construction can get underway in 2020.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com