By Craig Johnson
The Roosevelt Growhouse will begin a new garden on Roosevelt Row after receiving temporary access to the historic Knipe House property.
Phoenix City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday in favor of a license agreement between the Roosevelt Community Development Cooperation and the city of Phoenix permitting the Roosevelt Growhouse immediate, temporary access to the vacant Knipe House lot on Second and Portland streets.
This relocation comes after the Growhouse’s store, the GROWop, was evicted from the original Sixth Street property in October 2016 and the community garden was ordered to shut down by early January 2017.
The Roosevelt CDC then began to work with the community and economic development department to find a new location for the garden.
The Growhouse’s co-owner Kenny Barrett and other community members expressed excitement after Wednesday’s decision, which ensured that the Growhouse would remain a part of Roosevelt Row for at least the next nine months.
Barrett said the process of receiving city approval to use the vacant lot wasn’t easy.
“There was definitely a lot of leg work and we had to make sure everyone understood what we were trying to do,” Barrett said.
The move to the Knipe House is temporary while Barrett searches for a permanent location for the garden. According to Barrett, the possibility of purchasing the Knipe House property is unlikely, but not off the table.
“That’s something we’ll consider over the next nine months,” Barrett said.
During the time The Growhouse operates on the Knipe House lot, the city may begin to consider Request for Proposals, or RFPs, for developing the lot, according to Community and Economic Development director Christine Mackay.
“It’s exciting for us to have the site in a temporary activation as a temporary garden,” Mackay said. “It allows a use of a city owned property that’s just sitting today.”
Mackay said her department will request the city council’s direction to send out a Request for Proposals for developing the Knipe House lot in the spring of 2017. The RFPs will then be reviewed by a panel that includes members of the community.
“We find it very important that the community sit in and have say about what comes up in their area,” Mackay said. “We don’t want to turn [Roosevelt Row] into a homogenous area.”
The Roosevelt Growhouse’s temporary relocation also means that the Knipe House will be less vulnerable to vandalism, according to Arizona Preservation Foundation Board of Directors President Jim McPherson.
“It’s a good thing to have activity around a historic building or any building that’s undergoing change,” McPherson said. “We’re all hopeful that Kenny succeeds with the Growhouse and the next step is we get some RFPs.”
Regardless of who is selected by the city to develop the vacant lot, McPherson said he is “certain” that the preservation of the Knipe House will be an integral part of the Request for Proposals.
For now, however, Barrett and others at the Growhouse will watch over the property while the community garden is reestablished.
Barrett said the city will till the blighted soil on the property and the Growhouse will reinstall its old irrigation infrastructure. He, his interns and community volunteers will begin growing clovers and sunflowers in order to bring nutrients back to the sunbaked soil.
The Growhouse’s future may only be certain for the next nine months, but Barrett said that this will certainly not be the end.
“Between all of our heads and mine we should be able to figure out a solution for the long term that makes everyone happy and ensures that the community is getting all the elements that they want,” Barrett said.
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