This could all end if that lot is sold by the town.
A group of local real estate professionals and Chapel Hill town staff are working together to review multiple disposable properties around town to see if they could be used for other purposes. Six properties, including the HOPE Gardens site, were chosen for review.
“There was an old building that is dilapidated and in disrepair on that property that the town has identified, and a number of other properties that we could dispose off and use for other purposes,” said Jason Damweber, assistant to the town manager.
Established in 2009, HOPE Gardens is a student-run community garden focused on using sustainable agriculture to provide food for low-income and homeless people. They also host education programs, potlucks and cooking classes, and manage a Sponsor-Plot Program for community members to rent a plot of land to grow produce.
“Part of our mission statement as an organization is providing a community space,” said Emily Auerbach, senior adviser for HOPE Gardens and a senior at UNC. “Obviously a physical space is a big part of that mission.”
The 14-acre property includes the former Sport Art Gymnastics building, a gravel parking lot and a large lake.
With permission from the Parks and Recreation Department, the Chapel Hill Town Council and the Active Living by Design Partnership Advisory Committee, HOPE cultivated a community garden to foster relationships among community members.
But despite the vegetable plots, herb garden, beehives and nature trails HOPE volunteers have built on the lot — the property doesn’t belong to them.