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BULLETIN: West Philly community garden faces sheriff's sale

Fifteen years ago, a group of West Philly neighbors banded together and convinced the city to demolish two burnt-out adjacent buildings on their block. The St. Bernard Community Garden sprung up in their place. Located between 49th and 50th Streets, between Springfield and Warrington Avenues, it quickly became a neighborhood institution and gathering place for residents. 

But on December 19, in an unexpected move, the larger of the two lots will be auctioned off at a sheriff's sale. Now, once again, the West Philly community is banding together to protect the fate of their community garden.
According to Trevor McElroy, a member of the community garden, he and other members heard the site was going to be auctioned off just a few days before it was to be sold in October. With the assistance of Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, the group was able to postpone the sale and convince the city to bid on the property. 

That is exactly the plan. According to McElroy, the City has pledged to bid the maximum amount it can, roughly $48,000, which is the amount owed in backed taxes.

"Best case scenario is that no one bids against the city and they are awarded the land," explains McElroy. "If that happens, the land would likely be turned over to a neighborhood gardens association and the garden would stay as is."   

The gardeners hope to buy the other parcel outright and have been trying to raise money to do so, holding a fundraiser at Dock Street Brewery this past Saturday.

"The event went well," says McElroy. "We had a good turnout, and we ended up selling almost every item up for bid, but now our focus has turned to the sheriff sale on Wednesday."

McElroy admits that a number of scenarios could still unfold—the future of the garden is very much in limbo. But regardless of what happens, he hopes a positive outcome for the community is in the offing.

"If a developer does end up buying the land, we want open communication with them about what happens with the garden," says McElroy. "We don’t want to get kicked out of the property right away, only to see the land sit vacant for years. We want what’s best for the community." 

Source: Trevor McElroy, St. Bernard Community Garden
WriterGreg Meckstroth
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