The Somerville Community Growing Center reopened at the end of June after renovations, offering several new spaces for locals to enjoy nature, pluck produce, and attend free events.
The quarter-acre Growing Center—located near Union Square at 22 Vinal Ave.—was founded by activists in the mid-1990s on part of the former Southern Junior High School property. The city owns the land and leases it out to the Friends of the Somerville Community Growing Center.
Education and community building have always been focuses of the volunteer-run center, according to Liza Kitchell, president of the Friends of the Somerville Community Growing Center board. The center provides planter box gardens to schools throughout the city, works with Shape Up Somerville, and supports the Somerville Mobile Farmers Market.
“It’s kind of like a backyard for everybody, so we want people to feel welcome and come and share in that space, and also get to know their neighbors and be outside,” Kitchell explains.
The four-year renovation project restored parts of the growing center, created distinct new areas—including a pollinator garden, an orchard, and a composting area—and made the center ADA-compliant. The center was closed from September 2018 to June 2019.
The renovations also bring the center updated eco-friendly features, such as a rain garden, wood chips from trees that had to be cut down, and a wall of stones that used to belong to a Cambridge house’s foundation.
The Growing Center is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Wednesdays from 3 to 6:30 p.m., when any volunteers are at the center, and during events. The center hosts numerous events from May through October, including including children’s story times, yoga, and potlucks. Whenever the center is open, members of the public can spend time in the space, pick from the garden, and get their hands in the soil.