Be it a yard, a nearby park or a terrace, outdoor space is a much desired amenity for house hunters everywhere. Combine that with an increased awareness and interest in where our food is coming from, and you’ve got a fertile environment for community gardens.
And while such spots are unquestionably great for growing vegetables, builders and developers are finding that they might also be good for growing sales.
It’s perhaps unsurprising then that housing developments around the country are incorporating community gardens into their plans. In Detroit, for instance, the city’s AgriHood project has brought a fruit orchard and urban garden to its North End neighborhood and generated tens of thousands of pounds of fresh produce for the community. A separate project, a partnership between local nonprofit GrowTown and Ginosko Development, installed a three-acre community garden as part of a redevelopment of the city’s Renaissance Village apartments.
In Sacramento, builder K. Hovnanian has included a multi-acre community garden as part of one of its active adult developments that some residents are even using to make their own wine.
There is more interest in community gardens, and developers are actually planning for community gardens in their big residential subdivisions now.
“When we get people moving to Sacramento, they are calling and asking where the community gardens are because they want to live by one, so it is definitely a selling point, says Bill Maynard, the city’s community garden coordinator and a board member of the American Community Garden Association.
While green space has always been desirable, the interest in community gardens specifically is a more recent trend, Maynard notes.
“I worked for 25 years in land development, and it has definitely changed over the years,” he says. “There is more interest in community gardens, and developers are actually planning for community gardens in their big residential subdivisions. There’s a different mindset now.”
Gardens “give people a place to get their hands dirty and maybe grow some food for their families,” he says. Perhaps just as important, he notes, is their role as a gathering place where residents can cultivate a sense of togetherness. “Sometimes people don’t meet each other, and the garden gives them that community-building aspect.”
Not that there aren’t trade-offs, of course. In land-limited cities like New York and San Francisco, community garden sites can double as attractive development parcels, and in some communities, residents and builders have battled over the fate of particular plots of land. In 2015, for instance, New York City moved 34 local community gardens under the purview of its parks department, protecting them from development, which had threatened a number of these spots.
There’s reason to think, though, that builders and gardeners might in many cases be able to reach an accommodation. A 2008 paper in the journal Real Estate Economics found that community gardens in New York City had significant positive effects on nearby property values, suggesting that municipalities don’t necessarily need to choose between going green and making it.
And, Maynard notes, as development perks go, a garden requires a fairly modest initial outlay and upkeep.
“I’ve been contacted by a developer who rehabs old apartment complexes across the country and they want us to help them add community gardens to their apartment complexes because they believe that it’s a good clean amenity they can have at very little cost,” he says. “Once its built, it’s really just the cost of the water to maintain it for the most part.”
And dinner can be just outside your door.