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Grassroots and Open Space Development

The Grassroots program supports the development of community gardens, urban farms, and other open space. You can find resources online on gardening and farming safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This program supports the development of community gardens and other open spaces. The program provides grant funds, City-owned land, and technical assistance to neighborhood groups and nonprofits that want to organize, develop, own, manage, and maintain community gardens and open space in the low and moderate income neighborhoods.  

Typically, projects are funded in two phases. Requests for Proposals are issued offering land and funding to help with the creation of community garden space. These spaces will provide low- and moderate-income residents with the opportunity to establish gardens. Our goal is to grow healthy food for families and the community.  

Neighborhood Development will make a tentative designation and award of funds to the selected development entity. Then, we work with them to finalize their proposal.

Have questions? Contact:

Shani Fletcher

Funding Available

The Grassroots Program is currently offering funding of up to $100,000 per project in the City of Boston for:

  • open space capital projects on private land, or
  • public land that is not in Neighborhood Development's inventory.

Funding is available, for projects small and large, to 501(c)(3) organizations only, in neighborhoods where over 51% of the population are low-moderate income. Funding is on a rolling first-come, first-served basis. Please see the Grassroots Open Space Funding FY21 Request for Proposals for more information.

Land acquisition process

If you’re interested in creating an open space project on City-owned land, the Grassroots Program is here to help. Please note that this process can take as long as 18 months.

Find Your Parcel

Are you an individual or neighborhood group looking to turn a specific parcel into your neighborhood into an open space project? Reach out to the Grassroots Program Manager to find out if this parcel is already in a pre-development phase for another project.

Are you an individual or organization with a specific project in mind, but not a specific location? Contact the Grassroots Program Manager for help finding a parcel that might be a good potential fit.

EngageMent

Engage with:

  • immediate abutters
  • local neighborhood associations, and
  • other community stakeholders.

Find out what they think of your idea. Work with them to come up with a community vision.

Community Meeting

Neighborhood Development (DND) will hold a community meeting. We will invite neighbors who live within a 300-foot radius. At the meeting, we will invite community input on the proposed use of a parcel. We will also ask for guidance on the development guidelines that will be included in a future Request for Proposals (RFP).

Request for Proposals

If community support indicates an RFP for sale of a parcel for a specific use is warranted, DND will issue one. Massachusetts’ anti-corruption laws require that property acquisition be made through an open and competitive process. Therefore, a Request for Proposals must be issued. That allows anyone interested in buying the parcel — for the community’s expressed preferred use — to apply.

If Grassroots funds are available and likely to be needed for a particular use, an RFP may include an offer of grant funds for open space project development.

An RFP is issued and available online. Once issued, there is usually a four- to six-week window where proposals are accepted. Due to the challenges presented by COVID-19, proposals are currently being accepted for two months from the issued date. 

Selection

After the RFP deadline, an internal selection committee reviews all proposals for eligibility. The committee compares responses to the RFP’s comparative evaluation criteria. The committee selects the proposal that:

  • meets eligibility criteria, and
  • is considered most “advantageous”, based on that comparative criteria.

If funding has been offered, an award decision is also made.

Question Period

DND staff will work with the recommended developer. We will answer any questions or complete any necessary additional documentation before taking the next steps.

Tentative Designation

DND will schedule a Tentative Developer Designation (TD) vote at the Public Facilities Commission (PFC). The PFC will vote on whether to declare an “intent to sell” the parcel to the recommended developer.

Finalize Design

If the PFC votes to designate the applicant, the applicant then has a year to finalize their:

  • design and budget
  • permitting, and
  • funding, with technical help from the Grassroots Program.

DND will take the project before the PFC for a Conveyance vote if the applicant:

  • has been able to finalize these items in two to 12 months, and
  • is ready to begin construction.
Closing

If the PFC votes to convey the land to the applicant, Neighborhood Development and the applicant will close on the sale of the land about four weeks after the meeting. If grant funds are being dedicated to this project, the grant agreement will be finalized upon closing. 

After closing, construction may begin. If Neighborhood Development provided Grassroots funding, we must monitor construction until it is complete.

Project highlights

Highlights
Eastie Farm

This 3,100-square-foot property in East Boston, conveyed in June of 2019, received $132,000 of funding. It is used as a gardening education tool for a local school.

Clark Cooper community garden

This 87,047-square-foot nature center and wildlife sanctuary in Mattapan received $51,524 in funding. The property, managed by Mass Audubon, offers educational activities.

Windermere Road Garden

This 4,100-square-foot terraced garden in Dorchester received $75,000 in funding.

Recent updates

Edgewater Food Forest

The parcel is almost completely landlocked and was used primarily as a cut-through for decades. Once completed, the Food Forest will include: 

  • multiple paths,
  • art installations,
  • a platform and other areas for gathering,
  • a walnut processing station,
  • a rain catchment system,
  • a shade garden,
  • berry bushes,
  • fruit trees, and
  • a tiny library.

This project is located in Mattapan. It is being created by Boston Food Forest Coalition and will be managed by them in partnership with Edgewater Drive Neighborhood Association.

Micro Healing Forest

The Micro Healing Forest is modeled on the Japanese concept of forest bathing — shinrin-yoku — and meant to bring a healing space to Codman Square. Once completed, it will include:

  • the addition of trees known to have healing properties,
  • a new pathway and wall, and
  • a gathering space for educational and community use.

This project is located in Dorchester and will be created and managed by the Codman Academy Foundation.

John Eliot Square Urban Wild

The Urban Wild is an effort by Paige Academy, whose school grounds abut the property, to address climate change impacts in their neighborhood. They have created a growing and gathering space for their school and the broader community. Near completion, it includes:

  • water retention and anti-erosion measures,
  • a hillside pathway,
  • native plantings,
  • community growing beds, and
  • a small greenhouse.

This project is located in the Highland Park neighborhood of Roxbury.

6 Chelsea Terrace Urban Farm

The Urban Farm will feature food grown by the community, for the community. It will serve as a new site for Eastie Farm, who has been growing in a communal way for donation as well as community consumption on Sumner Street for several years. Once completed, the project will include:

  • raised beds,
  • a greenhouse,
  • rain catchment systems,
  • a performance and gathering space, and
  • the preservation of the existing fruit trees.

This project is located in East Boston and managed by Eastie Farm, Inc.