When the city rejected its first applicant to develop a pilot “urban farm” earlier this year, it could have represented a setback in efforts to bring better nutrition to underserved areas sometimes called “food deserts.”
Instead, officials insist, it spurred changes that in many ways make the revised project more attractive than its predecessor.
“Maybe we should have done it this way originally,” said Heather Presley-Cowen, deputy director of the city’s Community Development Division.
She said the new location for what officials hope will be the first of several farms is located in the Renaissance Pointe redevelopment area and will result in the renovation and re-use of historic Fire Station No. 9 at 2518 Winter St.
When it opened a century ago, that station was the city’s first fully mechanical engine house. In addition to numerous new and renovated homes, the area near the fire station is also home to a small park and an old Coca-Cola bottling plant slated for redevelopment into housing.
Fort Wayne originally planned to locate the initial farm on 2.8 city-owned acres near Radcliffe Drive, and even sought zoning approval for the project. But in May the city said the committee organizing the “Victoria Acres” farm near the Autumn Woods Apartments had been disqualified because farming had begun before federal funding was approved.
Committee members said no one in their group was responsible for the violation. Burmese families living in the area had been farming the site until complaints caused the city to order the practice stopped in 2012.
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