Washtenaw County's former juvenile center on Platt Road to sprout community gardens
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Though the center on the east side of Ann Arbor has sat completely idle for months, Project Grow has had its eye on the center for re-use for some time, said Eric Meves, treasurer and board member for the organization.
The county will donate a grassy area on the juvenile center’s property to Project Grow for use as a garden this summer. Project Grow will convert it to about 20 25-foot by 30-foot garden plots during the next two weeks.
Workers will begin marking off plots this weekend at the site, Meves said.
Project Grow, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, places community gardens in vacant sites across the city. The nonprofit shows revenue of $65,580 for 2010, according to filings.
This year, it has about 350 plots available at about 15 different locations - and the competition is steep to gain a spot.
Gardeners pay $130 annually for a full plot, and there are low-income funding options available for those who need it.
Project Grow will pay for their water usage on the juvenile center site, as they do on other public land that hosts their garden plots.
“It really is a resource for the citizens of this county and we want to make sure we use our resources efficiently,” said Gregory Dill, infrastructure management director for Washtenaw County.
The juvenile center is adjacent to the Discovery County Farm Park on Platt Road, which hosts about 80 garden plots and has been a site for Project Grow for 40 years.
“It’s good for us, so we can expand right next door,” Meves said.
There’s a waiting list 10 people deep for a plot at the farm park and about 30 people waiting for a garden plot overall in the system.
“My feeling is that we have two to three times the demand for gardens that we’re going to be able to meet right now,” Meves said. “We also want things that are distributed around town and not just concentrated in one area. Most of Ann Arbor is under served.”
Project Grow has continuously expanded its operations for the past several years. Nine plots were added at West Park last year, and over 10 plots were added at Chapel Hill the year before.
“It is difficult to find large areas of sunny land where there is parking and water access,” said Kirk Jones, managing director of Project Grow.
The county’s long-term plans for the property remain unknown. Juvenile court staff were moved out of the aging facility in 2011 and into the third floor of the county courthouse downtown.
A public meeting was held last summer to discuss plans for the property, but not much progress has been made public since.
Dill said the county is continuing to look at long-range plans for the site. Options include tearing down the building and re-purposing the property for public use or selling it.
The site is just over 13.5 acres and was appraised in November at $1.4 million, Dill said.
“The building is antiquated and has some asbestos.” Dill said. “Some time this summer we hope we’ll find a way to take that building down.”
Planners are due back in front of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners this summer with an overall strategic space plan for county services.
Dill said the county wants to move several of its departments from spaces they lease to county-owned properties to become more efficient.