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Harold Street lots could be used for urban farms

Posted by Patrick Rosso  December 3, 2013 03:48 PM

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(Image courtesy Google Maps)

The location of the lots.

Two vacant Harold Street lots, known for the trash they collect, could be the next city-owned parcels to be turned into urban agriculture sites.

Representatives from the Department of Neighborhood Development, which oversees the properties, were in Roxbury Monday night to discuss the vacant lots at 225 and 227 Harold St. and to see if residents would be supportive of them being turned into urban farms.

Urban farms differ from the common community garden because the food produced is for commercial purposes.

“We want to get these parcels back to working for the city and the community,” explained Liz Llenas, a project manager for DND.

The lots, which were acquired by DND in the late-1980s, are part of a series of city-owned Roxbury parcels being pushed for farm uses.

The move is connected to the new Article 89 zoning, which will streamline the process of securing approvals for the cultivation of crops for commercial purposes on parcels throughout the city. Although the lots will be used to produce food, which would be sold or donated, urban agricultural is generally a low-impact use.

The new zoning language, however, must still be approved by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, a hearing is scheduled for December 17, and receive the sign-off of the mayor.

The language was approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority in November.

The move to sell the abutting parcels, which total approximately 12,670 square feet and are bordered by residential structures, was met with enthusiasm from residents.

“I’d love to see something going on there to bring the neighborhood up,” said Dollie Taylor-Suttles, a 70-year-old area resident and vice president of the Clark Cooper Community Gardens. “People use to just throw trash there and they just cleaned it up, so I’d love to see a garden there.”

Others said they are supportive of a farm, but eventually would like to see more affordable housing in the area.

“We envision having housing there at some point, but we’d also like to see gardens,” explained Marlena Richardson, a 68-year-old area resident and member of the Garrison-Trotter Neighborhood Association’s board. “We’d like to see the land held in a trust and farmed until a feasible development plan can be created.”

Others wondered how the farms could benefit the community that surrounds the lots.

“Would there be a farm stand?” asked Ralph Shirley, a 31-year-old property developer. “If that’s offered to people who don’t have access to fruits and vegetables I think it could be a good idea.”

The lots will be sold, most likely to a non-profit, through the DND’s Request for Proposals process, which includes community input as well as the public advertisement of the properties.

Although a hard timeline has not been established, DND representatives said an RFP could be developed and advertised by mid-December with the final developers selected by late January or early February. Once the final developers have been selected, DND will bring them out to the community to gather input before the property is sold, with the possibility of crops growing on the properties by early-summer.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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