Chad Scott loves watching things grow. It could be a pet, a plant or his nephew, Mason. At one point in his childhood he had 33 pets growing in his home. But as of late, what’s caught his attention is the literal and figurative growth of a 6,500-square-foot piece of land off a formerly derelict strip of Third Avenue in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Sitting on a wooden picnic table beneath a sizeable ficus tree in what’s now known as Flagler Village Community Garden, a light breeze brushes against Scott’s skin. He breathes in the fresh air, saying, “I enjoy when I walk outside and a plant is flowering.”
If that’s the case then soon enough Scott’s enjoyment will grow 79 times over as he oversees the creation of the first community garden in South Florida. With a plan to incorporate 79 4-feet-by-4-feet raised plots in the space, Scott is spearheading a movement that he feels is much needed in today’s modern world. In his view, the urban garden will be a community gathering point and an outdoor area where neighbors can exchange ideas with one another.
The community garden has been a labor of love for Scott, a CPA turned realtor, and the tight-knit Flagler Village Civic Association, where Scott serves as the treasurer. Riding on planner Kate Sheffield’s initial wave in 2010 to create a community garden, Scott convinced the neighboring Lutheran church, which owned the empty lot, to allow use of the land rent-free for 10 years.
Let it never be said that Scott wasn’t the driver of this bus, never once letting his foot off the gas to fulfill his goal of seeing this project come to fruition. On a completely volunteer basis, Scott rallied the community to gain the necessary funds to build the garden, from partnering up with city events like Better Block and Night Owl Market, and receiving nearly $3,000 in donations from both events. He too cultivated the city’s leaders, notably making a push that eventually led the city to grant Scott and the Flagler Village Civic Association $30,000 in funding. Others soon joined in on the movement, including Whole Foods Market, which has committed to sponsoring educational components and plots in the garden.
With an ambitious and progressive design from local landscape architect Cadence, the garden already has two of its three phases of construction underway, with the first phase scheduled to open in early 2014. A small, empty home located on the land will even be converted into a restaurant.
While Scott, 30, feels the garden will “inspire people to grow things that they wanted to grow in their neighborhood,” he wants it to be more than a place to nurture plants and fruits; he wants it to be a venue where educational programs and community events will flower and bloom.
An avid gardener himself who delved into the hobby as a young boy growing up near the Everglades, Scott hopes the Flagler Village Community Garden will be the impetus of a downtown revival. As he puts it, “I understand that this garden is just a pin dot in the world, but it’s a little treasure in this big city.”