The future of Little Patch Garden, a community garden located on a small plot of land downtown, is undecided.
The parcel of land is owned by Graham Weston, co-founder of Rackspace, Geekdom, and Weston Urban, who has allowed the community garden to operate on the parcel of land for free since Little Patch was founded by several Geekdom members in November 2012. But as the downtown landscape continues to evolve and millions of dollars worth of improvement and redevelopment projects take shape in the area, Weston is reconsidering the small island’s best use.
“As a community we’ve made a great deal of progress over the past several years downtown. Little Patch has certainly been a part of that, an innovative use of a fallow lot spurred on by Steve, Rodney and others,” said Weston Urban CEO Randy Smith, referring to two key garden volunteers, Steve Flannery and Rodney Kidd.
Flannery and a small team of volunteers manage the garden and take care of weekly maintenance. Gardopia, a nonprofit organization that teaches health and wellness through gardening, has helped support and sponsor Little Patch since 2015.
“Lately, Weston Urban has been telling us that they’re thinking about redoing the lot,” Flannery said. “The rumor is it will be a parking lot or a new building.” Flannery and his team are now working on a “transition plan” to vacate the space in the next six months. They are disappointed that the garden isn’t part of the long-term plan.
Weston has not decided on what will become of the parcel, Smith said.
“It’s far too early to tell what the long term, highest, and best use of that parcel will be, but we always try to look at our portfolio holistically and given our adjacent holdings and the upcoming Main and Soledad improvements, now is the time for us to begin planning,” Smith said. “The garden was such a fantastic idea for a temporary use. I’m not at all surprised that an idea like that would spring forth from a handful of Geekdom members.”
The small parcel is around 5,000 sq. ft. and is surrounded by North Main, East Pecan, West Salinas, and North Flores streets. It will likely be needed in some way to complement the City’s and Weston Urban’s multi-block development efforts that includes a new Frost Bank office tower, commercial shops, street improvements, and at least 300 new residential units going up in the area.
The San Pedro Creek Improvement Project, which is slated to break ground this summer, will only add more construction to the area. The linear park, which will flow through the Zona Cultural just blocks away from Little Patch, will reinvigorate the area and connect several destinations around the inner city.
The idea for the Little Patch community garden began when several members of co-working space Geekdom found themselves constantly staring at the unused patch of land from their Weston Centre office on the 11th floor. A small volunteer group emerged to spruce up the area, and the Little Patch Garden was born, Flannery said. They just wanted to grow food, build community, and give neighbors a space to interact in the city center.
Geekdom has since moved to the Rand Building, which also is owned by Weston, but the garden is still visible from some office windows. Currently, the Little Patch Garden has picnic tables, a bird house, lavender bushes, herbs, and raised garden beds that grow an array of native Texas wildflowers as well as tomatoes, squash, and other produce, which changes seasonally.
“Every week, around four to five volunteers come to the garden to pick up trash, mow the grass, and perform general upkeep,” Flannery said. “Ever since (we started), we’ve had good outreach with the local community and all the business owners around here like Carmen’s de la Calle, Lüke, and Gwendolyn. (They) love us, they all come to pick some produce from the garden (and use it for) their recipes in their restaurants. Whatever is left is given to homeless people.”
On Tuesday nights, about 10 people meet at the garden for an hour-long Little Patch book club meeting, Flannery said. Gardening workshops are sporadically provided and the garden hosts an annual block party, too.
“We’re always trying to get more local interest,” Flannery said. “People downtown love this little area. It’s a weird garden in the middle of downtown, but it’s cool.”
Across the street from Little Patch, volunteers use a small warehouse, also owned by Weston, to put away tools and extra gardening material. Rainwater is collected from the warehouse’s roof into a cistern and then carried in plastic jugs by volunteers to water the garden. Flannery and other volunteers have pushed for the City to install a water hose in the area, he said.
The garden has touched hundreds of lives over the years, Flannery said, and it could reach more. Little Patch might soon be gone, but volunteers and supporters of the garden hope that future developments in the area will incorporate a green space in some way. During a recent meeting, there was talk about a possible rooftop garden.
If not, Flannery hopes it can start back up again elsewhere.
Top image: The Little Patch Garden is located at 405 N. Main St., tucked in between East Pecan, West Salinas and North Flores streets. Photo by Rocio Guenther.