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Vacant City Land to be Filled with Fruit Orchards

Brent Warren Brent Warren Vacant City Land to be Filled with Fruit Orchards
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The Wexner Center for the Arts is partnering with local neighborhood organizations and two Los Angeles-based artists to bring a novel idea for developing vacant lots to Weinland Park and the South Side.

Two “fruit parks,” featuring a carefully-curated selection of fruit-bearing trees and bushes, will be designed and planted by the artists and a group of neighborhood collaborators — one at the southeast corner of North 4th Street and 11th Avenue in Weinland Park, the other at the northwest corner of Reeb and Parsons Avenues, just north of the John R. Maloney Health Center.

The Weinland Park parcel is owned by Wagenbrenner Development and sits just to the west of its Grant Commons apartments. It will be planted with about 40 native berry bushes, “chosen for hardiness and sweetness,” according to a Wexner Center release.

Forty fruit trees will be planted on the larger South Side parcel, taking up about half an acre of city-owned property. The new orchard will be adjacent to a planned Community Housing Network building.

The artists, David Allen Burns and Austin Young, have worked on similar projects in other cities. The whole process — from planning, to planting, to harvesting — is meant to be collaborative, and is conceived of as a way to bring neighbors together.

“This park doesn’t follow the model of a ‘community garden’, but rather a communally shared space and a beautiful spot to hang out or share a meal with family and friends, where fresh fruit can be freely enjoyed by neighbors, and park visitors,” Burns and Young said in their statement on the project.

Bob Leighty, Executive Director of the Parsons Avenue Merchants Association, has been promoting the potential of the Reeb lot for years (along with a number of other city-owned parcels in the vicinity). He said that he is excited about the project and thinks it will be a great fit for the neighborhood.

“Fruit is the medium for these artists,” he said. “They’ve done it all over, they partner with an arts organization to raise funds for the trees and for planting, they work with the community on a maintenance strategy, then the community takes over… it’s really a Johnny Appleseed approach.”

Leighty said that a ground breaking is tentatively scheduled for each site in April. Volunteers are currently being recruited to help with the project, which will be accompanied by an installation at the Wexner Center.

For more information see wexarts.org.

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