Back when Kensington was the Workshop of the World a hundred years ago, industry boomed and the surrounding neighborhoods bustled with factory workers. As the years passed and manufacturers moved away or closed their doors, Kensington fell into a state of disinvestment and the neighborhood became overrun with blighted buildings and vacant lots. As we’ve seen in other neighborhoods that have faced similar circumstances, several vacant lots in Kensington were converted into community gardens. One of the oldest and most productive gardens in the neighborhood is La Finquita, at the corner of Lawrence & Master, which has been operating for about 30 years.
Recently, we learned that La Finquita will be relocating or going away forever, as developers have purchased the land upon which the garden sits. The developers actually purchased the land about two years ago, but garden operators Catholic Worker have been fighting the acquisition in court, arguing that they’re entitled to the land via adverse possession. Last month, the Public Interest Law Center reported that the operators of the garden and the developers had reached a settlement agreement and that the garden would indeed get developed as a result. We’re not legal experts, but we aren’t sure why the gardeners weren’t permitted to keep the land since they had possession of the land for more than 21 years. On the plus side, what we’d assume is a sizable settlement should set them up to transfer their efforts to a new location, yet to be determined. For now, the garden will close on May 1st.
We don’t know who bought the land, nor do we know what they’re planning for the property. It’s zoned for single family development, which would seem to make sense given the relatively new seven home project that recently appeared next door. We told you about this project roughly a year ago, before construction began. The project, known as North Point, has been completed, with one of the homes already sold at a price point near $600K. Another unit is under agreement at a list price of $550K, and another is listed for $525K. Don’t forget the umbrella factory rehab, still progressing across the street. With that in mind, maybe the developers will go for an apartment building instead.
Given the pace of development in South Kensington, it’s no surprise that a developer dug up the owner of the La Finquita parcel several decades after they abandoned the property. It’s a shame that this longstanding community garden is being uprooted (pardon the pun), but this is actually a fairly common outcome in neighborhoods where land was previously worth very little and has now become quite valuable. This situation only drives home the point that the City needs to work closely with Neighborhood Gardens Trust to protect community garden space, especially in emerging neighborhoods.