Though community gardens often emerge through an organic (ahem) process, at least one garden with get its start through the District government. Construction will begin in June and last through the summer transforming a paved lot at 13th and C Streets, SE in Capitol Hill into the 13th Street Community Park and Garden. Unlike many community gardens in the surrounding neighborhood, this project is not part of the Capitol Hill Community Garden Land Trust, but rather funded through a federal grant and financing from the District Housing Authority (DCHA).
Almost two years ago the DCHA applied for a grant as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to build the new garden at the Kentucky Court Apartments, a senior and disabled resident community. The ensuing $650,000 HUD award is being partnered with $250,000 from DCHA to finance the construction of a new bright spot for the neighborhood. The HUD grants went to seven projects throughout the District, but 13th Street was the only community garden in the District to receive funding.
The lot totals 6,000 s.f., which will be divided among various uses, including a gardening area with raised beds to make them accessible to Kentucky Court's residents, a gazebo with space for gardening lessons, a small fountain, benches and an exercise area. The more than $900,000 in financing will also cover the plumbing that has to be installed to drain the area appropriately, to improve the surrounding sidewalk and to install better lighting. In April, contractors took a soil sample so neighbors know what their rutabagas are growing in. DCHA currently has out an RFP for general contractors for the bulk of construction; responses are due today.
Dena Michaelson, spokesperson for DCHA, said the garden is an "extension of the all the work" the agency has already put into the Kentucky Courts Apartment. Over the past four years, added Michaelson, DCHA has invested over $4 million on the Apartments, greening the building with energy efficient windows and appliances and new roofs. District-wide, said Michaelson, such efforts have yielded over $1 million in savings on utilities.
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