Housing Complex

A Visual Argument for Virginia Avenue Park

The gardeners fighting to save Virginia Avenue Park in South Capitol Hill from becoming barracks for the Marines have kicked up their advocacy with a nicely-produced video:

Richard Layman made the interesting argument last week that it makes sense to put the barracks there because urban places should be urban, as market forces create higher density. I'm not sure I agree. Densely populated places are immeasurably more valuable when paired with access to permeable ground, not just for sunbathing and playing frisbee, but maintaining some kind of connection to the production of food. It's possible, even, that if factored into the market, people would be willing to pay what the land is really worth in order to have their own gardens nearby. Wealthy landowners in New York have the money to keep Gramercy Park from becoming another high-rise, and it's a delightful amenity to have in the middle of Manhattan–but it's kept under lock and key. Shouldn't there be some effort to set aside these kinds of oases for the public as density develops around them? Is a closed naval base more deserving of space near a metro stop than a garden open to all?

  • Sally

    So under your theory of economics, most of Manhattan should be dirt cheap b/c there's no connection with Mother Earth and growing food.

    And is the garden really open to all? Or is it like the Newark Street Community Garden that is closed to anyone that already doesn't have a plot and the wait list is also closed b/c there's no turnover of the public land for other individuals to use?

  • Blue Pen

    CP says "Shouldn’t there be some effort to set aside these kinds of oases for the public as density develops around them?"

    Yes. Yes. and Yes.

  • http://www.flickr.com/ Mr. T in DC

    I'm with Richard Layman on this one. Small, multi-use parks, of civic plazas are fine to have tucked into dense development, but community vegetable gardens only serve a VERY small percentage of the population, and are not inviting spaces to passers-by, children, dogwalkers, cyclists, etc. Community gardens are a good way to put to productive use urban land that was forsaken in the 1960s, as a placeholder, but when rebuilding takes place, they should properly be sacrificed. A good example in Columbia Heights: behind the Tivoli Theater and the Giant grocery there were once rowhouses on Holmead and Monroe that were destroyed during or after the 1960s riots. The land lay fallow until community activists created a vegetable garden behind the ruins of the theater, and it thrived until the Metro came to Columbia Heights. Then, the land was redeveloped back into rowhouses and the grocery store.

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  • Eric

    Sorry Mr. T, food and the way we eat have come a LONG way since 50 years ago. Keeping this garden is a must and the organic healthly food it produces is an amzaing thing. This park needs to stay.

    Or, we can all agree you and get some crappy produce from the giants like Walmart.

    Seriously, what do you eat?

  • Brenna

    Virginia Ave Park, is more than just a community garden and IS an inviting space for passers-by, children, dogwalkers, cyclists, etc. Of whom I'm one. I live in the neighborhood and don't have a plot, but love waling by the garden and smelling/seeing all the gorgeous plants. There are also paths and benches and grass for non-gardeners to enjoy.

    This park isn't being asked to be sacrificed for redevelopment for the growth of the community; the Marine barracks build will not bring any NEW people or businesses to the neighborhood, they will simply be relocating from their existing compounds.

  • Diana

    I am a member of the garden and I feel that I must respond to this "closed off from rest of the community" argument. We have intentionally planted a number of fruit trees around the perimeter of the Virginia Avenue Community garden in order to provide access to fresh organically grown fruits to anyone who walks by. Right now, passersby can pick delicious, ripe red plums from our plum tree. I can guarantee that the Marines will not be providing access to organically grown produce to passersby through their 9 foot security gates. Furthermore, the community garden is but a small fraction of the beautiful wide open space in the Virginia Avenue Park -- a park available to ALL. Thank you Housing Complex for seeing the quality of life benefit of preserving urban green space!

  • Michael

    This is a 4 acre greenspace that is being threatened by development. We need to preserve it for everyone. The only reason the Marines are looking at this is because Seelander Properties proposed it. Seelander wants to make a buck on its adjacent lots that it took a risk on during the baseball stadium land grab. The idea is to use Seelander land and the public park land to create another military enclosure, all the while closing streets and shrinking the tax base (the Federal government doesn't pay taxes on land.)