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The Growing Center's Redesign and Renovation Project

Actively used since it was created in 1993, the Growing Center had aged: tree growth limited where we could grow food, the lawn had been compacted, structures reached the end of their lives. Funding from the City's Community Preservation Act in 2015 made possible an 18-month process to address the needs of the Center to complement the needs of the Somerville population. Eva Leung and Adam Davenport of permaculture design firm Terra Cura, Inc have been working with us to engage the broader community in a regenerative redesign (PDF). The goals include:

  • increase the food yield while highlighting principles of sustainable urban agriculture,

  • make paths and community gathering areas more accessible and easier to maintain, and

  • improve water conservation throughout the site.  

Through the CPA, the Somerville Community Growing Center was awarded $350,000 for its renovation. The Growing Center Renovation and Restoration Implementation project was designed to make possible the most important infrastructure updates to the Somerville Community Growing Center. These renovations were critical to increasing the Growing Center's accessibility and safety, providing a beautiful and fun environment for volunteer groups to manage this urban forest, garden, and cultural center for decades to come. The hardscape elements funded by CPA included: demolition & site preparation, site improvements (grading, retaining walls, pathways, railings & fencing, seating, storage, raised garden beds with season extensions, plant materials) and added utilities).

Growing Center Re-Design Updates and Documents

Site improvements commenced officially on October 15, 2018. Initial work focused on site clearing -- removal of damaged pathways, deteriorating timber retaining walls, and harvesting selective trees that could give way to more room and light and a more biodiverse ecosystem. As part of our tree upcycling effort, we partnered with Digital Structures, a research group at MIT working at the interface of architecture, structural engineering, and computation. Tree joints were harvested, and will be 3D-scanned and sculpted for structural studies. Sal Mancini – a woodworking instructor at Artist Asylum -- has also harvested our Black Cherry, Kwanzan Cherry, Pear, and Red Maple for wood turning materials. Last but not least, part of our harvest was used to give life to mushroom cultivation for the CIty of Somerville's Nibble Program. In the meantime, Terra Cura Inc. worked with Somerville High School's carpentry, metal, and electrical shop on site furniture, storage, and ADA railing construction. Talk about growing the community!

In May, 2019, enough of the renovations were complete that the Growing Center was able to re-open. Go here to learn a little more about our grand re-opening celebration. Work continued throughout the season. We replanted the site, including several beds of native perennials, the pollinator garden, and herb garden. We planted young saplings in the lower garden, constructed raised beds, and re-sodded the lawn area.

2020 presented challenges for what remained of our renovation work, but we managed to make progress. We rebuilt the pergola, and plans are coming together to begin work on our orchard area. Stay tuned!

Please see below the results of Phase 2 of the Somerville Community Growing Center’s Redesign process done by our friends at Terra Cura, Inc. Click here for the SCGC Redesign PDF Link!

In November 2020, the Growing Center celebrated the completion of a major final piece of the CPA renovation project: the redesign and construction of the pergola/stage area. Review the file below to learn about the build process carried out with the wonderful folks from MassArt, despite the many challenges presented by the pandemic during the summer.

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