The Fishtown Neighbors Association’s beautification committee is seeking to restore the former rose garden at Frankford Avenue and Belgrade Street after the 1,600-square-foot lot had fallen into neglect over the years. The rose garden came to be soon after July 2002, when a Fishtown man named Wayne Elliss Jr. was murdered near his home near the corner of Frankford Avenue and Belgrade Street. In his memory, the lot at the corner of Frankford and Belgrade was turned into a rose garden. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, the garden essentially turned into a patch of dirt with a few trees.
“It’s not used well,” said Monica King, the FNA’s beautification committee head, about the current state of the lot. “It’s a place where a lot of people take their dogs to use the bathroom.”
But this year, the FNA is looking to change that. Last Friday, the FNA received news that a $61,000 grant had been provided by the Penn Treaty Special Services District in order to transform the rose garden back into its original state. According to King, the grant will officially be approved once the deed is transferred from NKCDC, which currently owns the property, to the FNA. Currently, NKCDC and the FNA are awaiting the documents to be reviewed by lawyers, and the FNA expects the deed to be fully transferred by August, King said.
“NKCDC has owned it since the early 2000s,” King said. “NKCDC has been selling some of their property in FIshtown, and this is one of the lots they wanted to deed over to another community organization.”
King called the parcel a “gateway to one of the residential areas” of the neighborhood, marking the lot’s cultural importance. “It’s so important to preserve the green space because there really isn’t that much land left in Fishtown to sit down and enjoy nature from such a busy street and corridor,” she said.
In addition to the $61,000 PTSSD grant, the FNA has managed to raise an additional $16,000 from residents and local businesses to transform the property. The FNA also chipped in an additional $4,000 of its own cash to fund the project. As a result, about $81,000 is readily available to contribute to the project.
King said the garden will be renovated in two phases. The first phase will “restore and create the fundamentals of the space,” King said, which will include a brick patio. “We didn’t want to do grass because it just wouldn’t be sustainable because people trample over it and it becomes dirt again.” Phase one, which will be completed soon after the deed is signed over, will also include adding floor planters and native plants to the lot.
Phase two, which will entail adding amenities like benches and an art structure to the lot, will be completed once the money is raised for it.
The design of the proposed rose garden was created by a local landscape architect named Dave Smith for free. Smith is both a landscape architect at Rutgers Landscape & Nursery and a member of the FNA’s beautification committee.
More than a dozen local businesses, such as Nunu Bar, Cheu Fishtown, Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop and Interstate Draft House have donated funds to the project.
“One of the reasons we wanted to restore the rose garden is to preserve the history of this really important Fishtown landmark,” King said. “It’s a place that’s really important to a lot of people in the community for different reasons.”