For veteran gardeners like Alonzo Bryan, a new neighborhood greenhouse means not just carrots and collards growing through the winter. It means a growing sense of community.
Bryan (pictured), who’s 84, joined a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday afternoon in the community garden he helps run in Newhallville a the corner of Shelton Avenue and Ivy Street. Construction is already underway on a new 15-by-30-foot greenhouse. It’s a joint project of the city’s Livable City Initiative (LCI) and housing non-profit Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS). The city put $10,000 toward the project and NHS came up with $2,000. Walsh Construction is donating the foundation and footings, valued at about $12,000.
Dozens of people turned out for the groundbreaking ceremony, including city officials, aldermen, top cops, schoolchildren, and trainees in the city’s Construction Workforce Initiative program, who will be assembling the greenhouse.
As several speakers observed, the event marked not only the commencement of construction, but the continuation of Newhallville’s recent turnaround efforts. Amid high crime rates and low incomes, people have been working in various ways to improve their neighborhood. These efforts included NHS’s cluster-based approach to redeveloping Newhallville’s housing stock and a boom in the community gardening.
“There are good things going on in Newhallville today!” announced LCI Director Erik Johnson, who emceed Wednesday’s ceremony.
“What’s growing here is more than vegetables. It’s community,” said Mayor John DeStefano (pictured).
The ceremony included a long list of speakers, each thanking more and more people involved in the project.
Gardener Ida Felder (at right in photo) added another thanks to the list. “Thank God,” she said. “This was my hope and my prayer. I asked God to send some people to help me. ... This community garden is a blessing to this neighborhood. I had worried about the whole Newhallville neighborhood going into the ground, but today is the day I see it’s going up.”
Felder, who’s 75, has lived in Newhallville for 55 years and gardened at Shelton and Ivy for 12.
“People always said this was a beautiful space,” she said. “It’s really special now.”
“Who would ever think there’d be a greenhouse in Newhallville?” said gardener Roland Smith. “It’s got to be a plus. People see things happening in the neighborhood.”
“It’ll make the community better just to see that something can be done in Newhallville,” said 63-year-old Burgess.
Burgess said the greenhouse will be yet another way to connect with young people in the neighborhood. He said he often talks in the garden to curious kids who don’t recognize fresh growing vegetables. “They be saying, ‘What is that?’ They don’t know what a tomato is.”
Most of the gardeners are seniors, noted Velma George (pictured), the LCI staffer who spearheaded the greenhouse project. The addition of the new structure is intended to change that. Students from nearby Lincoln Bassett School will work in the greenhouse, along with young people from Solar Youth, said George.
Some of those Lincoln Bassett students were on hand for the ceremony, treating the crowd to a couple of songs: “Lift Every Voice And Sing” and “God Bless America.”
Architect Fernando Pastor, who designed the greenhouse, said the structure will have rain barrels, recycled doors, and a passive solar geothermal heating system for the floor. He said the greenhouse will be fully built in two weeks.
Previous stories about Newhallville’s turnaround efforts:
• Banks Begin To Budge
• A Lot Of House Envisioned For Little Lots
• Brick By Brick, Winchester Vision Takes Shape
• Gardeners Prevail; Vacant-Lot Challenge Remains
• After Crash, Neighbors Seek Fix For Blind Corner
• Newhallville Confronts A Mega-Landlord
• Newhallville Bounces Back; House Will Get Built
• Levin To Newhallville: “We’ll Be Back”
• Newhallville Up For “Historic” Boost
• Cops Make Arrest In 83-Year-Old Prof’s Mugging
• Harp Probes The Newhallville Conundrum
• “Let There Be Light” (Emitting Diodes)!
• Arts Serve As “Scaffold” For Neighborhood Revival
• “Serenity” Takes Root On Shepard Street
• Bird Garden Fights Blight
• Yale Flees Newhallville After Prof’s Mugging