Neighbors turn downtown blight into community orchard

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A group in downtown Memphis found a solution to blight. They’re turning an overgrown, abandoned lot into a community garden and park.

It’s at the corner of Nettleton and Tennessee Street.

“Because of the shape and the location, it really can’t be used for much. You can’t build a house or something like that. From a neighborhood stand point, it’s a great place for the community to come together,” said Brian Douglas, president of the South Main Association.

Douglas said instead of complaining, neighbors decided to create a community orchard. Recently, they planted several trees. Fruit is already starting to grow.

“It is a project that can grow over time,” said Douglas.

Organizers said it’s a work in progress. They plan to tear down more weeds, add benches, paint a mural and make it a fun spot for the community to hang out.

“I think it’s great. Anything to improve Memphis and get people involved with more gardens and orchards. It’s good for Memphis,” said Breezy Lucia, who works downtown.

Others who work and live nearby said it’s nice to see neighbors taking action and finding a way to tackle blight without the city’s help.

“Whether there was crime occurring or not, an abandoned lot gives the potential for something like that to happen,” said Douglas.

Douglas said the garden will not only make the area safer and more vibrant, it will also offer food security. He hopes the project inspires other communities to take action by cleaning up and getting creative.

Next week, AutoZone employees are volunteering to plant flower beds and more fruit trees.

Organizers are still raising money for equipment and plants. To find out more about the project and how you can help, click here.