Community Garden Takes On Kroger 

Sale of Washington Bottoms land may impact community garden.

All manner of flowers and vegetables are in full bloom on a piece of land that was once home to the now-demolished Court Manor nursing home on Court Avenue in Midtown. But the people behind the Washington Bottoms Community Garden are worried about the garden's future.

Kroger is currently looking at the lot where the garden sits — 1414 Court — as a potential buy, and the garden's advocates worry that if Kroger buys the land they'll be forced to clear out.

The garden is run by Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality (H.OP.E.), an advocacy group for people experiencing homelessness. The group falls under the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center's umbrella. Earlier this month, the H.O.P.E. Garden Crew launched an online petition to show Kroger their objection to being bulldozed.

click to enlarge Washington Bottoms community garden
  • Washington Bottoms community garden

Kroger recently purchased 18 acres of vacant land in Washington Bottoms, across the street from its Crosstown store, for $3.9 million. Kroger told the Memphis Business Journal in April that they had no immediate plans for that land but rather were just investing in the area in anticipation of the opening of Crosstown Concourse in 2016.

The community garden's land was not included in that sale, but Kroger is considering buying it from Cushman & Wakefield for $585,000.

Teresa Dickerson, public affairs manager of Kroger's Delta Division, said, if they do buy that land, the retail chain has no intention of infringing upon the community garden.

"We have no plans of taking away their garden," Dickerson said. "Honestly, I was little surprised at the news. ... We support what they're doing with the community garden. They're very passionate."

Still, proponents of the garden don't fully trust Kroger, and they worry about the retailer's long-term plans for the land. They started an online petition to save the garden, and it has just over 300 signatures after being shared on social media. The garden crew also has been circulating a paper petition.

Jamie Young, who works with the H.O.P.E. Garden Crew, said they have been told that a provision to clear the property would be included in Kroger's contract to buy the land, so the group is being proactive in trying to save the garden.

"[Cushman & Wakefield] has every right to sell the property," Young said. "We had their blessing, and now that we've been tipped off [about the potential Kroger sale], we think that's wrong."

Proponents of the garden have tried to get in contact with Kroger, but Young said they are waiting to hear back.

"We are not looking to build on the land right now," Dickerson said. "It's just a great area, and we have an investment in that area. We put over $1 million into [renovations at] our nearby Poplar and Cleveland store."

Young said the garden's placement has helped improve the neighborhood, especially since the lot was a hotbed of illegal activity before the garden was established in 2013.

Young said that she hopes proponents of the garden have more time for discussion with the company.

"If they're not developing on the land, then it's a win-win for everybody," Young said. "It makes the neighborhood safer."

Proponents of the garden have even suggested working and partnering with Kroger if those communication lines are open.

"Why don't they come out and meet us?" Young said. "I think that a lot of folks would jump at the opportunity to buy more local food. We could be part of the greenspace in their development projects. We certainly buy stuff at their stores all the time."

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