Updated: 8:34 a.m. Wednesday, July 10, 2013 | Posted: 7:03 a.m. Wednesday, July 10, 2013

COMMENTARY

Culture vs. economics: should Garden Station be uprooted?

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Culture vs. economics: should Garden Station be uprooted? photo
The Garden Station community garden has a greenhouse made partly of 2 liter bottles. (Staff photo by Amelia Robinson)
Culture vs. economics: should Garden Station be uprooted? photo
A Garden Station shed constructed partly of glass bottles. (Staff photo by Amelia Robinson)
Culture vs. economics: should Garden Station be uprooted? photo
Murals are painted on the wall at Garden Station. (Staff photo by Amelia Robinson)
Culture vs. economics: should Garden Station be uprooted? photo
Artwork is abundant at Garden Station. (Staff photo by Amelia Robinson)
Culture vs. economics: should Garden Station be uprooted? photo
Garden Station artwork. ( Staff photo by Amelia Robinson)

By Amelia Robinson

Staff Writer

Supporters of Garden Station Community Garden and Art Park plans to deliver 1,000 more signatures to the city as part of its campaign to convince leaders that the urban garden should stay put.

Dayton officials have a developer in mind for the land the park is on, near the intersection of Wayne Avenue and Fifth Street.

Fight to save the park

Lisa Helm, a chief Garden Station organizer, said more than 2,000 people have signed the petition to save Garden Station by hand and on Change.org. About 1,000 signatures have already been delivered to the city.

Click here to see the petition.

“Right now we want the city to be aware of how many people value that space,” Helm said. More than 1,000 people helped organized the park.

“We have ties that are really deep throughout the community and I think that’s something the city doesn’t realize,” she added.

Issue at hand

Garden Station rents the city owned lot.

As my colleague Thomas Gnau reported last week, city officials have identified the site for a possible mixed-use development. Under zoning laws the lands possible uses include residential, retail or office.

Shelley Dickstein, Dayton assistant city manager, told Tom that it is too soon to say whether an urban garden in the area will be part of that site’s future.

Helm said her group has long known the site could be developed, but she said Garden Station has become a resource that should not be abandoned.

The space was basically an outhouse when Garden Station — then an arm of the Dayton Circus Creative Collective — took it on five years ago.

Helm said the lot was completely overgrown, having been abandoned by a train company 40 or 50 years ago.

It was dark and truly creepy to walk past the site before Garden Station was planted.

Train tracks are still present, but gone is the blight and vagrants.

The garden has received more than its share of recognition from outside of the community.

The space is used partly to promote sustainable living through the community garden and creative reuse of materials through art - some of it functional. It also acts as a community gathering space. There are art events, educational programs and musical shows.

“We are doing this because we are trying to make the city better and create something the city needs,” Helm told me.

A park is an asset, she said.

“Any other place would consider that an amenity,” she noted.

The Flip-side

That’s all well and good, but the whole thing leaves the the city in a pickle, and not a delicious one.

Garden Station has surely made a positive cultural impact, (the people behind it are community-minded gems), but a mixed-use development could make an economic one.

God knows downtown could use new retail (maybe that fancy market everyone downtown seems to crave) and new homes are in high demand downtown and surrounding areas. Developers, particularly those who want to attract national retailers, fight to control element of design. Pushed too far, they often roll up the sketches and go to the next community.

The Downtown Dayton Partnership, a nonprofit group that promotes downtown, recently told us there were 814 apartment units and 165 condominiums downtown at the end of 2012. Apartment units are 98 percent full and condos 97 percent full.

Read: Strong interest in downtown living fuels development

So what is a city to do?

What do you think? If it comes down to it, should Garden Station be uprooted to make way for development?

Contact this blogger at arobinson@DaytonDailyNews.com or Twitter.com/DDNSmartMouth

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