Midtown Community Garden Sold; Fruits and Vegetables Ordered Out, Immediately

Midtown Community Garden, 2720 Baldwin at Drew St., Midtown, Houston

The barbecue scheduled for this coming Sunday at the Midtown Community Garden at Drew and Baldwin has been canceled, along with all attendant fruit and vegetable growth. On account of: The property’s been sold. Harvest time will have to be quick: A for-sale sign  quietly appeared early last month outside the 13,000-sq.-ft. green space, which had been operating as an allotment garden for 3 years. “Just as quickly,” a source tells Swamplot, a SOLD placard was slapped on it. The listing, with an asking price set at $799K, described the property tersely as an “amazing opportunity.” A buyer has now claimed it.

How much notice would the new owner give the gardeners? Late yesterday afternoon, members of the gardening collective received an abrupt email from the organization’s president announcing that — by request of the new owner — everyone will need to get out, by the scheduled closing date. That’s tomorrow, March 6th.


“If there is anything you would like to remove please do so immediately,” the email reads. “I am sorry for the short notice this all went very quickly.”

Midtown Community Garden, 2720 Baldwin at Drew St., Midtown, Houston

Midtown Community Garden, 2720 Baldwin at Drew St., Midtown, HoustonMidtown Community Garden, 2720 Baldwin at Drew St., Midtown, Houston

The garden at 2720 Baldwin St. was begun in 2010, after neighbors Scott Harbers and Rick Ackers approached the owner of the then-overgrown vacant lot with a proposal: They’d clean up the land if they could set up a garden there. 25 lots measuring 20 ft. by 4 ft. were set up inside the perimeter of a picket fence; members paid an annual fee, while latecomers sat on a waiting list. The space also included a picnic area.

Midtown Community Garden, 2720 Baldwin at Drew St., Midtown, Houston

Photos: Swamplot inbox

Garden Turnover

55 Comment

  • Hahahaha, dirty hippies being kicked off land they don’t own but somehow felt entitled to it. I hope 24 hours is enough warning for them to wake up from a pot induced coma and start plucking them tomatoes.

  • Let’s pave that over and get cars parking there ASAP

  • …and the city just got a little darker…

  • What a douche bag, that was a community treasure. Profit trumps produce, curses to the new owner.

  • Commonsense, I just read your entire tirade in cartmens (from SouthPark) voice. Makes more sense, and a bit more fitting.

  • The only losers in this scenario are those that did not plan properly with contingencies; the land owner had an exit strategy all along. While I was initially a bit sad, this was super-smart on the land owner’s part and extremely naive behavior on the part of the folks running the garden- this group knew what they were getting into right?! Otherwise the only excuse is incompetence. And following the money, who stands to win? The land owner gets all the time he needs to find the right buyer (and the right price) for this prime piece of land, and he gets paid for it to be used as a garden until such time as he yanks the rug out from under them.The gardening group wasted time and money improving upon the land, likely making it available for at least a Leed silver cert due to what exists now. What do they get out of this? A net loss of time, effort, money.

  • That piece of dirt sold for around a million dollars. I’m sure you guys would have all just donated the land to Midtown had you been sitting on that kind of money!

  • Everyone who enjoys gardening in their neighborhood is a dirty, drug-using hippie, commonsense? Seriously?

  • Wow. Didn’t even give them a chance to raise the money and buy the land themselves the way the Houston Housing Authority did for the Westbury Community Garden.
    You can still donate to the latter, by the way: http://www.westburycommunitygarden.org. They’ve got a loooong way to go, so if you believe, on some level, that fresh fruits and vegetables are a good thing, you should donate,

  • cm,

    I am going to assume you are the new owner, and the eviction notice is just a joke. Otherwise, you would be using your own resources for something other than preserving this “community treasure”, and that would just be greedy and selfish of you.

  • I wondered how long that prime piece of real estate would be allowed to vegetate!

  • I live in the yellow condos behind there. Sad to see it go. However, there are plenty of other medium size lots in midtown/montrose area to put a new one.

  • I’m somewhat confused by the dirty, drug using hippes comment? Please enlighten us.

  • All hail commonsense..the master of hasty generalizations!

  • Didn’t the midtown development folks just put up a sign on Bagby pointing to the gardens? Why the heck did they do that if it wasn’t a permanent arrangement? My wife and I saw the sign up when we walked past it on Sunday, not surprised at all that it went that fast. They’ll get a good 9 townhomes in there.

  • All these comments? I had to go back and re-read it, what did you guys read? I saw nothing that said the people using the land were in any way unhappy with the sale, I saw nothing that indicated anything other than they knew what they were entering into in 2010 when they started this. Admitting I haven’t read the facebook page, I would have to assume that all the hatred for the new owner is being kept in there?
    Sad to see it go, it’s nice that neighbors and landowners of disused property can work together to keep make the neighborhood better, at least until the owner sells it and a developer comes up with his own plans to make it better. Good for all of them.

  • Am i missing some part to this story? Local residents made arrangements with the owner of a vacant lot to use said lot as a garden. A few years later, the owner sells for a tidy sum. I don’t see anything in the story about the people running the garden being upset about the sudden sell (surprised, perhaps) or about them feeling entitled to the land or whatever else. It seems like everyone came out ahead here.

  • It may seem like a waste now that a number of crops in progress will have to be pulled or moved, but this was actually a hugely productive use of vacant land. Instead of having an overgrown vacant lot engaging in a game of yellow tag chicken with the City for mowing violations, there was a beautiful garden for the neighborhood. It produced bushels of produce in the short time it existed instead of being a safe haven for rats and snakes. There are so many similar lots inside the loop that just sit empty for a few years before someone gets off their butt and does something with them. Just imagine how much more attractive the neighborhood would be with a garden instead of weeds for every vacant lot out there. The fact that the land will eventually be sold should not be a deterrent.

  • Thank God. I walk by there all of the time, and it was stressing me out to see so much land without even one townhouse on it.

  • commonsense: Heck yes! Those dirty hippies with their food and their permission from the landowner to use the land to grow it.

    Why, as soon as I saw that garden, it made me think of Jefferson Airplane and people spitting on soldiers in airports.

  • If one goes back to the Lovett house comments page, one will see that commonsense was drinking his “30-year-old Scotch” at 8:37 a.m. That could explain a great deal.

  • Here’s a radical idea, Swamplot moderator. Can you just IP ban commonsense, and to be fair, Shannon? Maybe just for a week or two to try it out?

    It’s getting to the point where the comments aren’t even worth reading because I know one of those two is going to show up for literally any remarkable piece of news, with their obnoxious, abrasive, self-centered perspectives. They piss everyone off and ruin the discourse, almost every single time.

    I really like this website, and I have been coming here for years, but I’m getting really tired of there being a spoonful of bullshit after every article from the same two people consistently. I’m not giving up on Swamplot, but it’s tainting the quality of an otherwise excellent product.

    Just give it some thought, thank you.

  • They had to know the land would get sold at some point.

  • I wish this site had an “ignore” feature, so I wouldn’t have to wade through the toxic trolling of sociopaths like “commonsense” when I read the comments.

    This garden was a nice feature of Midtown and I’m sorry to see it go, but given its location this property wasn’t going to remain undeveloped forever.

  • @ian,
    I agree with you but there’s really no point to banning him. He’ll just log on under another pseudonym like “reasonable opinion” or “ordinary wisdom” and continue making the same old tired, uninteresting comments.

  • @Ian, just because you don’t like listening to a spoonfull of reality and practicality once in a while, does not make it untrue.

  • I agree with Ian

  • I’m with Ian on banning Shannon. I have a feeling she’s been blocked on other blogs at the very least for “blog bombing” and foul language. I can picture 2 cats laying next to her while she empties her second bottle of wine over the glow of a laptop.

  • I’d like to see something like this happen in the Museum District. Perhaps, I’ll bring it up at tonight’s meeting.

  • I agree with Ian.

  • It’s a shame that the people that ‘farm’ there didn’t get together and try to buy it vs. offering to clean up land that they HAD to know was going to get sold. It was just too valuable not to.

  • Agree with Ian.

    Also, COTD nomination.

  • @Fernando: I believe this idea has been floated in Museum Park a few times in the past–the key is obtaining permission to use the land & that’s been difficult to come by.

  • the one or two trolltastic comments by commonsense or shannon are tolerable. what really bothers me is the 10 or 20 reaction comments that follow from people who dont understand what a troll is or how to ignore one.

  • I say keep Commonsense and Shannon. I don’t think Common is nearly as douchey as he portrays himself and sometimes he is amusing.
    Shannon? Well he at least ha a good vocabulary and I must have latent masochistic tendencies.

  • I agree with Ian. Also, I always assumed Shannon was male.

  • The garden’s Facebook page indicates they knew the property was going up for sales a few weeks ago at least so this isn’t a 24 situation apparently. Someone also commented that they’re promoting the land be sold as green space. Yeah, that little space will yield a lot of green.

  • Yes, they had to know the arrangement would end. But they should have time to move expensive soil, dig up transplantables, etc.

  • Mother Hydra maintains that the people working the gardens are the losers here. I disagree. They seem to be the real winners. They’ve had a place to grow a garden near their homes. They’ve reaped who knows how many loads of wonderful vegetables, herbs and even flowers. I wouldn’t consider the time, effort and money they’ve invested to be a waste either, with the exception of what ever plants will necessarily be destroyed when they vacate the property.
    I’d venture to say that the gardeners consider themselves winners too. I would, if I’d been in on that deal.

  • Being one of those “dirty hippies’ who used this community garden, its time for a comment. Midtown is largely a transient place these days. By that, i dont mean full of gypsies, i mean there are masses of 20 somethings new to the city who live in surrounding apt blocks for a year or two and then move on to some other part of town. This community garden has been a great place for established members as well as newcomers to mix. Professionals from all walks of life including lawyers, IT specialists, health workers etc. have come together as part of the gardening club, they harvest and often donate their produce to people in the community and act as a small greenspace producing something other than dog poop in this rapidly growing neighborhood.

    You dont have to be a paid member to enjoy the space. Dog walkers would pop in to use the dog run in the back of the property, walkers would often stop off to exchange growing tips, accept produce donations (many thanks to all the thai food fans that accepted the free lemongrass from my plot, i was overrun with the stuff) or just shoot the breeze about the neighborhood or the ballgame in a way you might not with strangers on the street.

    The recent/former owner was kind enough to lease the space for this use for a nominal fee and bore the growing taxes on the land from year to year and so we knew it couldnt last. However, we were in the process of trying to get the City to buy the land and transition it so more people could enjoy it. Then, as i understand it, the slump in the housing market evaporated and so did our chances of a City acquisition. As time ran out, Urban Living ran in. We knew that we had about 30 days to leave according to the former owner but now its changed hands so rapidly, Urban Living wish to avoid any liability with people on their land and gave just a few hours notice of eviction. Basically, everyone has to get back from work this evening, salvage what they can in the failing light and get out.

    We had a great run and some of us are looking for a space elsewhere. Urban Living are doing the same everywhere. Developers wish to maximise profit by carving up land into the smallest plots, building utilitarian looking concrete blocks upwards and leaving locals putting up signs telling UL to ‘go ruin someone elses community’ as seen across the entirety of Montrose. Am sure 3-6 families will benefit from the space after new townhouses are built but i can assure you that a lot more benefited from it when it was a community garden. C’est la vie!

  • I wonder if the city would consider a change in the parking ordinance where you need x spots per unit (or SF of commercial space) ** OR ** the equivalent in green space.
    I know I’ve mentioned this before, but we’re about to build a new set of apartments and I wanted to have a big garden where all tenants get their own “spot”. Nothing huge. Maybe 10 feet by 5 feet. We were going to do this by not putting in much parking. But I found out we need a TON more parking than I thought. We were told we had to pave paradise, and put in a parking lot (oooh, bop bop bop bop… :)

  • XBox One, I wish someone at the Houston Parks Department would read your comment. You talk about that garden as a space where neighbors were able to meet each other, and enjoy some time outside. Many of our existing small parks could be set up to have community gardens, but there’s been no push to get the Parks Department to allow, or encourage it.
    What this space in midtown points out the need for are more “pocket parks” in the increasingly dense neighborhoods on the west side of the inner loop. People in townhomes don’t have big back yards to plant in or play in. Unfortunately, the housing price boom in these areas over the last 24 months makes it increasingly hard for the city to purchase land to make into parks. Another case of the city being a day late and a dollar short.

  • I own 2 vacant lots in neighborhood and I am interested in creating a Community Garden. Both of my lots is about 8 blocks from the Community Garden but don;’t where where to start. Anyone interested in helping to create a community please contact me vis email at jackseyor@sbcglobal.net
    Thank you,

  • As an Inner Looper who did move in from an actual Truck Farm, it always strikes me as very odd that people who want to farm and grow things (?) so often buy townhomes and then look for a place to work the dirt… (?) Usually, somebody elses dirt. (!) You want health and friends? Here’s a thought, try buying at Whole Foods, and “working out” by painting your house, waxing your floors, helping your neighbor wash his car, chasing somebody elses toddler, bringing a homeless person home, etc. And, consider not moving in in the first place, or, using window planters, making a roof top garden, etc. It bothers me very much that people who want to live and work close to their life and work get “bumped” out of a neighborhood because the people who moved in first want to pull up the drawbridge. You don’t feel “right” without “free” space, dirt, grass, friends, pet poop spots, etc.? Then either move out or don’t move in… Cripes. Is that so hard to figure out? You want a livable, sustainable, meaningful existence…? There are better ways.

  • Unfortunately, the MId-Town Community Garden is an example of the main barriers to community gardening in an urban setting, ie the high value of land and not having control or adequate tenure on the land to make a go at it.

    If you are interested in starting a community garden in any area, consider taking the course “How to Start a Community Garden” offered by Urban Harvest.

    The most important word in “community garden” is community but then lots of fresh healthy food is a nice incentive too. Wish Mid-Town could have ended differently with the community continuing to enjoy a green space and the gardeners enjoying and sharing healthy food. In the meantime, support local food at a producer only farmers market.

  • john seyor – I shall happily pass your details on to the Garden Director. If you are free Sunday at 4pm, we can give you all the details you need at a barbecue the gardeners are having 1/2 a block from the community garden. It would expedite matters considerably as you would get the details you need ,volunteers to make it happen and a several glasses of decent bubbly in the bargain.

  • About the rising property taxes – wouldn’t the property become eligible for ag exemption after a few years of collecting the rental fees? That could bring the taxes down to next to nothing.

  • More about the laughably pro-development/developer parking ordinance. Hey Cody, how about you still build your green space apartments and in order to accommodate less parking, have fewer units. I know, I know, that would mean less money in your pocket. But otherwise, you are asking all of us taxpayers to underwrite the parking you are not providing your tenants.

  • Yeah, mel, I know that .0000000000000000001 of a cent is going to bite into your budget. I’ll be moving to the U.K. before 2015, where the Royal Family and the millions they bring into the economy will eventually cost me *GASP* £1 a year!!! Talk about taxpayer expenses!

    Cody, thanks for sticking with the IL. I will love it no matter where I go.

  • @ Cody – as another Houston developer you can make it happen with the desired density, but IT WILL affect your IRR and you NEED parking to lease and for retention (1.55 / Door on average but depends on mix). I am assuming you are talking infill only, b/c you could just buy an extra acre of garden style apartment land for around say 100K, and that would be a GREAT amenity. I have never seen a community garden at an apartment community, and I have seen +/- a thousand or so all of other the country. You have to get creative with site design. 1) Taller podium to save the desired horizontal space or 2) Instead of a 5 level parking structure pour a 6 story structure and make the top level drainable, in some fashion. Instead of a pool you will have a garden on the deck and the pool on the ground. The might increase the cost of the parking structure, you have to go with something like a pour in place post tension parking structure, for the load. I assume a filled pool would weight more (given the volume of water) than the dirt and water, but you would need to do your own studies. Good luck I am interested in where you are looking to do this deal.

  • Mel: I’d love to simply build less units, but unless you know someone giving away land to do so, the numbers don’t work. You can bash people for trying to make a buck but the people who would be selling me the land want to be paid, as to the people building the apartments, as do the people supplying the materials. I have to convince a bank that this is a sound project and have to risk my own money and hope to see a return. That capital doesn’t just magically appear. Buildings don’t just get magically built. It’s nice to think of what you could do if financial realities were not there, but that doesn’t get a project done.
    Look at a basic 5k SF lot. Calculate how many units you need to help amortize the cost of the land, based on what rents would be, then figure how many parking pots you need, and then how much land is left for green space. I’ll help you as I’ve done the math: At 1 1/3 spots per unit, it’s near zero. If I could do one spot per unit (which seems ‘fair’ for a 1 bed apt, where many people won’t even have cars), then that gives me at least a little bit of green area for garden.
    There is no point in being upset with reality. I’m not trying to give up parking so I can cram more units. I’m trying to trade parking for green space. Seemed logical in a project aimed towards people that may not drive (and would be told “FYI, you don’t get your own guaranteed parking space”). And if it didn’t work, then it wouldn’t be repeated. If it did, maybe we’d see more people walking/biking/using rail+brt/ride-sharing/etc.

  • AptGuy: Feel free to e-mail me. cody at fatproperty. First project is going to be on a small 5k lot we have in 3rd ward. We have a few 15k-20k SF lots we can do something with that might be more fun if it works out. And depending on how that goes, there is a 6ac lot I could play with.
    I don’t think I’m in the ballpark of being able to do huge parking structures. I’m pretty small fry.

  • Let’s see: the residents cleaned and used the property with the owner’s permission – sounds like an implied lease there, and proper notice to vacate of at least 30 days could be argued. In the alternative, they could claim fraud – that the owner abused their labor and goodwill and acted in bad faith as he knew the garden would increase the value of the property, so he profited from their work. Promissory estoppel that, in exchange, they would have use of the land, with a reasonable expectation of notice should he decide to sell. 1 day to remove personal property and fully grown plants is not a reasonable amount of time. Yes, they had use of the land for 3 years, but that wasn’t the full benefit of the bargain – they also increased the value of his land and made it attractive to a buyer, so, yes, the deserve to be compensated.

  • @Scott Howard
    So true about land available for gardening being so short term in these high property value neighborhoods. Sure there are plenty of empty lots, but how long will it be until the one you choose sells? It is also interesting that people want to get into these neighborhoods and are willing to buy parcels that are built setback to setback but then want access to free or nearly free growing space nearby.

    It is also rare that a property owner will allow a garden on site because of the liability it brings. Does saving the $1000/year that it might cost to keep a property like this “occasionally mowed” outweigh the liability of agreeing to allow people to be active on your property?

    Using city property is certainly an interesting proposition. The liability still exists, but maybe is not as burdensome as it is the City. Could the bayou trails be outfitted with fruit trees? Could pocket parks have community gardens?

    It will be interesting to see how edible gardening evolves as Houston starts to become increasingly dense in these desirable neighborhoods. Even a maxed out lot has some growing potential. Vertical and rooftop gardens will probably become increasingly common as both density and interest in gardening increases.

  • The good news is 2 property owners came forward and offered land for community members to garden.
    What started at the MCG garden will continue. The best thing about gardening in the city is the friends
    you meet and experiencing wildlife and the outdoors. I was glad to be a part of it for almost 4 years.