In Deep Ellum, How to Translate "Enthusiasm" for a Community Garden Into a Dug Deal

Over the weekend, some 65 people paraded into Sean Fitzgerald's Canton Street home to talk about how in the world to plant a community garden in Deep Ellum. It was, says the president of the Deep Ellum Community Association, a varied gathering consisting of neighborhood activists, urban planners, property owners, sustainability experts and "people down here who just wanna grow tomatoes." Fitzgerald tells Unfair Park this morning that the turnout was "mind-boggling."

The meeting was an outgrowth of the DECA's recent creation of a sustainability council, which hopes to "green" up Deep Ellum. Fitzgerald says the association has been in talks with the city, along with the U.S. Green Building Council and Cedar Valley College, about creating a "green technology center" in Deep Ellum.

"We kind of believe it would help us move forward as we develop Deep Ellum over time and help us move forward in a more responsible direction -- not just touchy-feely green, but in a way that smooths out the highs and lows of Deep Ellum," he says. "We'd like to help buildings become more efficient and help tenants stay in business without huge electricity bills."

The community garden's just the first step -- and probably the easiest, despite the myriad difficulties. The concept's just that at the moment: DECF has identified a potential site (2821 Main Street, otherwise known as the roofless former home of The Rock), which TXON Commercial Real Estate Co. has long been trying to rent for $3,000 a month. "Ideally," Fitzgerald tells Unfair Park, "we can find a building with eletricity and water that gets us around impediments from the city. We'd like it to be a vacant lot, and right now that's a difficult proposition." He says that for now, the foundation would be content with a "starter space."

The foundations hopes that ultimately, the garden won't be a single, disconnected patch of land, but something spread out throughout Deep Ellum's alleys that compliments the Deep Ellum Mural Project.

"And then there'd be a reason for walking tours in Deep Ellum," he says. "It would all feed each other. If we can get to that point, you can get tourists from the convention center coming down to Deep Ellum during the day, walking the streets, getting hungry, buying T-shirts, buying cheese -- all the things you need during the day, because daytime's still a killer problem for Deep Ellum. But that meeting was pretty excited. I think we've got a chance. There seems to pretty good support for it. We just have to transform enthusiasm to actually getting it done in Deep Ellum, so ..." He trails off, then laughs. "Wish us luck."

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