Gardel Prudent, the owner of Gardel’s Greene Garden at 97 South Portland Ave., will be closing the beloved nursery by next July to build a long-planned six-unit apartment building on the site.
Prudent and his wife opened the nursery on the empty lot near the corner of South Portland Avenue and Fulton Street in 1999, after purchasing the lot from the city for $50,000 in 1998, city records show. Prudent and his wife first opened the nursery in Prospect Heights around 1994 on a site that is now part of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park development, Prudent told Brownstoner.
Over the course of its time in Fort Greene, Gardel’s Greene Garden has taken root in the neighborhood and become a fixture for local gardeners, known for its range of healthy plants and Prudent and his staffs’ knowledge and kindness, according to many online reviews. However, Prudent said since purchasing the lot on South Portland Ave, the goal had always been to develop an apartment building on it. He had hoped to develop a mixed-use residential building with space for the nursery on the ground floor, but said his lender would only approve a solely residential development.
“It forces the nursery to close after 35 plus years of servicing the community,” Prudent said. “It’s heartbreaking for me as well as the community at large. The dream would be to keep it going but finding a space to move is kind of hard in this community.”
Prudent said he and his family would remain the owners of the new development, something he said had brought congratulations from many longer-standing local residents. He said with the different waves of gentrification that had occurred in Fort Greene, he was getting mixed reactions about the nursery’s closure.
“Some are very, very happy for me that I’m able to do this, and then there are some that are upset that I’m taking away the beloved fixture,” he said. He added that over his 35 years running the garden, he and his family had made a lot of sacrifices, including in the time they spent together. The new development, he said, had the potential to change their future.
“Because of the strong connection and devotion I’m a little heartbroken I cannot continue the services, but on the other hand I have the opportunity to see my dream come to reality,” he said.
He said the 5,512-square-foot, five-story building (which qualified for the 421a tax exemption program) will include six apartments, one that he will keep for his family and two of which will be set as affordable housing as part of the 421a program. Prudent added he will be the owner, landlord, garbage manager, gardener and everything else for the building.
The development, called Gardel’s Garden, will be built in a modern style, Prudent said, and will be a smart building emitting zero carbon and will include a backyard, a green roof and balconies. “I will be involved with all of the greening of the building, if I have my way there will be flower planters in the front windows,” Prudent said. He said he hopes to have the plans for the new building approved by the Department of Buildings by October. Rodney Leon Architects PLLC is listed as the architect for the project.
Over the years, Prudent has paid fines from the city for having the garden center on the site, which doesn’t currently have a certificate of occupancy. But despite forking out on the temporary structures and moving forward with his long-awaited residential project, he doesn’t want to call it quits just yet on the gardening business and said he is actively looking for sites to keep the nursery going.
Prudent said he has negotiated with the contractors to hold off on construction of the building’s foundations until July 2023 so he can keep his business running through fall, winter and spring while he looks for a new location.
“I’m taking away something from the community, but giving something more permanent and more structured,” Prudent said. “Heartbreak is never clean, but I would say this is a fair exchange.”
This story first appeared on Brownstoner.