Site developers seek help for urban garden in Birmingham, Alabama
Chris Hoyt, left, and L’Tryce Slade weed a row of beans in a community garden planted in Calera. Slade, who owns an environmental land use firm, came up with the idea of the urban garden; Hoyt’s firm, Dunn Real Estate, planted the garden on the property, which it owns. Photo by Frank Couch.
Concept of a garden on unused developer’s property
By Roy L. Williams
The Birmingham News
June 5, 2010
Birmingham — Part of a 40-acre commercial site in Calera that went unsold because of the economic downturn has been turned into something the owner hopes will benefit the community — a vegetable and fruit garden.
Dunn Real Estate, the development arm of Birmingham’s Dunn Companies and a corporate sibling of Dunn Construction, last year hired Slade Land Use, Environmental and Transportation Planning to inspect the undeveloped site on Alabama 304 just off U.S. 31.
L’Tryce Slade suggested that Dunn turn it into what she calls “an urban construction garden” by planting vegetables and fruit on the property. The idea appealed to Dunn Real Estate President Chris Hoyt, who has a garden at his home and a long interest in farming.
Since then, Hoyt and other Dunn Real Estate employees have planted apple trees, blueberries, pumpkins, corn and tomatoes at the site. Hoyt hopes to partner with nonprofit organizations in Shelby or Jefferson counties that are willing to cultivate the garden in return for vegetables and fruit, grown without pesticides and other chemicals.
“By using this unsold land for vegetable production, we’ll be able to assist local food shelters through this very difficult recession,” Hoyt said. “My idea is to team up with nonprofits willing to provide volunteers to work with us.”
Hoyt said Dunn Companies had high hopes for the entire tract in Calera when it bought the property five years ago and began selling lots.
“We had a lot of interest, including a potential hotel,” he said. “Then the recession hit. L’Tryce, with her environmental background, came up with the idea of an urban garden. We want to bring life back to this property.”
He hopes the construction garden will give some renewed attention to the Calera property, allowing his company to find a buyer once the economy turns around. Until that time, Hoyt says, the focus there will be on the garden.