City saves Philadelphia community garden from developers
St. Bernard Community Garden.
$71,500 bid and the auctioneer closed the sale in the City’s favor
By Sean Collins Walsh
December 20, 2012|
To save St. Bernard Community Garden, residents get organized, enlist the help of a local politician and with a dramatic last-second maneuver, triumph over potential developers to save their neighborhood treasure.
No, it’s not an episode from NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” It’s what happened Wednesday, when the city purchased a property in West Philadelphia at a sheriff’s sale, preserving the St. Bernard Community Garden, on St. Bernard’s Street between 49th and 50th.
“It gives me faith in public action and community stuff because the government wouldn’t have done anything unless we got organized,” said Trevor McElroy, of the Friends of the Saint Bernard Garden. “We’re grateful for the city’s help.”
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell intervened to make sure the city placed a bid on the property, which fell into city hands after years of tax delinquency.
“It was a focal point of community involvement, community beauty, and it gave the community a certain life,” she said.
There were a handful of other bidders, and the price was driven up to $51,000, which was higher than the city initially planned to bid, McElroy said. The city officials then halted the auction, made phone calls and placed the winning bid of $71,500, according to the Friends of the Saint Bernard Garden.
The city isn’t actually spending any money because it’s essentially buying the property from itself. But it does miss out on what it would have gained if an individual or company had bought it – at least $51,000 in this case.