Eugene charity garden plot may be sold for offices

10/31/2012 4:15 PM
By Associated Press

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — To the dismay of some university gardeners, the city of Eugene is considering a sale that could make office space of a downtown plot that has produced fruit and vegetables for charities the last three years.

The garden has been an outdoor classroom for landscape architecture students at the University of Oregon, the Register-Guard reported (http://bit.ly/X0XMAB ).

It's about an acre, in 3 feet of dirt piled atop concrete near the federal courthouse.

Among the garden workers have been high school students, at-risk and runaway youth, and former inmates. From April through October, the garden produced more than 6,000 pounds of vegetables and fruits for community groups.

The idea for the garden came from the U.S. District Court's chief judge, Ann Aiken, who saw the lot and its rubble from her fourth-floor courthouse office and wondered whether former prison inmates in her Reentry Court could garden there alongside community volunteers.

The city bought the land 12 years ago as party of a deal for a former cannery site that cleared the way to build the courthouse.

The City Council is reviewing terms for selling the plot. Northwest Community Credit Union of Springfield wants to buy the land so it can build a new headquarters and move to Eugene.

"This is public land," student Shonna Wells said. "We don't need another bank. I would really like to see public land used in a way that gives back to the community."

A three-year agreement with the city was temporary for a reason, said university spokesman Greg Rikhoff.

"It had been made abundantly clear to the university that should there be an opportunity to develop that site, that we would not stand in the way," he said.

Liska Chan, head of the landscape architecture department, said some people within the department disagree, but "we think (the garden) could be somewhere else," especially if it's near the university.

Chan said that, from her perspective, she can't think of a better company to buy the city's property than a local, member-owned credit union with plans to grow.

The credit union plans a three- or four-story building, with a credit union branch and partial underground parking.

The credit union would bring about 150 people to downtown Eugene, said Matt Purvis, the credit union's chief experience officer. Employment could grow to 200 during the next five years, he said.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com


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