By Craig Johnson
After its final Sunday of community gardening at its now closed location, the Roosevelt Growhouse is looking to reopen at a temporary location.
The property’s new owner, Desert Viking development firm, previously announced its plan to renovate the Sixth Street space into a restaurant as part of the new Blocks of Roosevelt Row project, leaving the community staple in need of a new home. Growhouse co-owners Kenny Barrett and Josh Hann closed the doors of GROWop Boutique vintage boutique in October, but continued to have community gardening until Sunday.
Barrett, who is on the board of directors for the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation said he is trying to prevent the Growhouse from being permanently displaced from Roosevelt Row.
Barrett is working with the Roosevelt Community Development Corporation and the city of Phoenix to gain temporary access to the city-owned vacant lot on Second Street between Roosevelt and Portland streets. The lot currently houses the historic Leighton G. Knipe House.
“It’s the best way to retain our programs, keep things intact and keep the momentum going while we figure what the long term solution is, otherwise we’re just kind of out,” Barrett said.
The Roosevelt Row CDC and the city of Phoenix have written up a license agreement for temporary use of the vacant land on Second Street according to Jennifer Delgado, who runs Delgado Law Group and also serves on the Roosevelt Row CDC Board of Directors. Along with Barrett, Delgado has been negotiating with the city.
“Really this is just a license for the use of the land,” Delgado said. “This is not a lease hold, we’re obviously not buying the property, we’re just using it for a temporary purpose for a very short amount of time.”
City council will vote on the agreement on January 25th. If approved, the Growhouse will be granted immediate access to the vacant lot, but will not use or modify the Knipe House on the property according to Delgado. On the new lot, they plan on building a new garden and watching over Knipe House, which has been subject to vandalism and was severely damaged in an alleged arson fire in 2010.
The Growhouse would be able to continue to operate in that location until either the Roosevelt Row CDC or the city of Phoenix issues a 60-day notification of termination for the license agreement according to Delgado. She said the city is likely to put out a Request for Proposals in the future in order to find a developer for the vacant lot.
On the new property, Barrett plans to operate the Growhouse out of a green shipping container which he bought using the Growhouse’s proceeds from the annual Roosevelt Row Chile Pepper Festival. Typically these proceeds fund the garden’s water expenses for a whole year. The container costs roughly half a years’ worth of water according to Barrett.
Amy Otto, program coordinator for the Roosevelt Row CDC and former Growhouse intern, said she thinks keeping the Growhouse in the neighborhood is vital because it provides an “amazing space for community involvement.”
Otto developed the CultivEAT event, a public dinner the Growhouse has held for the last two years in the alley behind the building with food cultivated from gardens. Otto said she believes the Growhouse will be able to continue these programs despite its uncertain future.
“I’m totally optimistic wherever we end permanently will the perfect place for us and it will provide a blank canvas for whatever new is going to come,” Otto said.
Otto said she thinks the temporary location will provide new opportunities for the Growhouse because of its larger size.
Despite the logistical challenges of moving to a temporary location, Barrett said this is currently the “best thing the neighborhood has come up with.”
“We have no other option and we’re at risk of being displaced from the neighborhood permanently,” Barrett said. “I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t want to settle for something that wasn’t either equal or better than what we currently have.”
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