Garden complicates sale of art school building in Cheltenham

    Temple University is selling its old art school building located in Cheltenham, but a nearby community garden is complicating matters.

    Temple University is selling its old art school building located in Cheltenham, but a nearby community garden is complicating matters.

    The former site of the Tyler School of Art includes the historic La Mott Community Garden. The sale could involve developing housing on the garden plot.

    For years Temple University has been paying property tax on a 1.8 acre plot adjacent to the former site of its art school, and letting the community use it as a garden. Now it wants to unload all of it.

    The Land Conservancy of Elkins Park, which runs a nearby retreat center, wants to re-open the art school. Its director is David Dobson.

    Dobson:
    It’s built as a school. It’s hard to make it into a shopping mall. Our point is that it’s still a viable art resource for the community and we think it’s a great asset.

    Dobson is asking Temple to split the lot and sell him just the Tyler buildings, not the adjacent community garden. The cost of the garden would necessitate developing it.

    The garden has an historic pedigree. It’s been there for 80 years and is likely a site of a Civil War training ground for African-American soldiers.

    Cheltenham has asked Temple to donate the garden to the township. The gardeners have asked Temple to donate the land directly to them. Temple administrators say they are weighing their options.

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