Update: Saint Bernard Garden Saved By the City

Maybe it was yuletide. Or maybe it was realizing what makes a neighborhood charming. Whatever it was that inspired the City to bid $20K more than they said they could to save a neighborhood garden from development, it happened.

Back in December

According to Plan Philly, City representatives bid $71,500 at a Sheriff’s Sale Dec. 19 to keep 1010 S. St. Bernard St. in West Philly a neighborhood garden. The bidding opened at $1,000 and had climbed to $50K before the City stepped in with its winning bid, according to a Saint Bernard Community Garden press release. According to a spokesperson for the Mayor, the City was able to bid more because there was an old nuisance abatement lien associated with the property. The amount of said lien provided the extra wiggle room for the City to bid. Although, in truth, no money changes hands. It’s a matter of bookkeeping. The City simply strikes the amount owed in back taxes and liens and other fines from the record.

In greener times, from the Friends of Saint Bernard Community Garden Facebook page
Another look from the Friends of Saint Bernard Community Garden Facebook page

We first told you about neighbor’s efforts to save their 15-year-old garden back in December. We thought developers were as sure to outbid neighbors as the hare is to beat the turtle. Perhaps it’s just politics, as Jannie Blackwell can use all the positive press she can get. Whatever the reason, it’s great to see the City standing behind citizens’ interests. It would have been unfortunate for the neighbors, who first organized the City around razing the old dilapidated structure on the site, to lose something they have invested many years in creating. It’s the small community gardens and the parks we never see that make a neighborhood home. The neighbors know them, but the rest of us don’t have to.

“Our goal is to see it eventually transferred to a land trust and remain a community green space and asset for decades to come,” said Trevor McElroy, a member of the garden.

Neighbors will now have to be on the lookout for the time when the abutting lot and second half of their garden goes up for Sheriff’s Sale. They hope to raise money this year to secure 1008 S. St. Bernard. Here’s hoping they pull it off.

–Lou Mancinelli