LIMA — A three-year initiative led by The Ohio State University undertaken to better understand how to re-use vacant land has resulted in a community-wide effort to transform a green space along the Ottawa River into a community garden.
Currently, 200 S. Jackson St. isn’t much more than a few trees on an undeveloped half-acre lot, but by the end of next spring, the site should be a hot bed of community activity after OSU’s Knowlton School of Architecture gets done with it.
While the project may have started in Columbus, it’s been carried forward by a handful of Lima businesses, nonprofits and governmental agencies. From Mercy Health-St Rita’s Medical Center to the City of Lima, the community garden has received support from a wide range of local organizations interested in contributing to the garden’s goal of improving health and wellness for Lima residents.
For example, Activate Allen County saw the new space as a way to expand programming and food education into the heart of Lima’s neighborhoods. Lima Allen County Neighborhoods in Partnership identified the project as an opportunity to create an accessible garden for the area. And at the same time, OSU can utilize the project to test certain theories about land re-utilization.
The project began more than three years ago when OSU began a collaborative effort to find ways to take advantage of Lima’s vacant properties. Called the Ohio Land Exchange project, the first few years were spent mapping over 700 vacant lots in the city limits. That data was eventually used to help the Allen County Land Bank apply and win the $4.5 million federal grant that ended up funding more than 200 demolitions throughout the county.
Now, that same data is being used to identify other properties that could benefit local organizations. For the site on Jackson Street, Mattijs van Maasakkers, assistant professor of city and regional planning with OSU, said the green space will be custom-designed to serve the goals of those organizations — a total of 14 various businesses, nonprofits and governmental agencies.
As for the project itself, OSU will be nailing down the final detailed designs for the garden and its associated structures. Construction costs are expected to be roughly $60,000 for the project, and it is expected to be finished by the end of next spring.
“I just think that when we can bring all the community partners together, it’s a great day for Lima,” Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce President Jed Metzger. “(Community partners) all said ‘yes,’ and they keep saying ‘yes’.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.