A group of residents are planting the seeds this winter so a public garden space for Grove City can blossom in the spring.

Growing Hope Gardens, the official label for Hope Gardens of Grove City, is registered as a state nonprofit organization but is working toward achieving designation from the Internal Revenue Service as a 501 (c) (3) tax exempt charitable organization, said Thomas Chahine, president and CEO of the organization and president of its board of officers.

Once that status is reached, the group would be able to begin soliciting and accepting donations for its project, he said.

"We're working on planning an event for sometime in May as a public kick-off of our effort," Chahine said.

Chahine previously helped in the running of 501(c)(8) political organizations, but he said he shifted his focus in recent years to assisting charitable organizations. He is studying economics at Ohio State University.

Since Chahine came on board with Hope Gardens of Grove City about a year ago, the concept of the project has evolved from creating a park to a public garden, said Rosemary Barkes, secretary of the board.

The concept was first hatched in 2013, she said.

"It was just a group of community members who saw a need for a park that would offer a calm respite within reach of our Town Center," Barkes said.

The group has had conversations with OhioHealth about potentially locating the garden at its hospital site at 1375 Stringtown Road, she said.

But when Grove City Council approved legislation last year designating that the old Grove City Public Library site would be earmarked for public recreation use, the group decided to propose its project as a potential choice for site.

The legislation designating the library site for public recreation use directs the city to seek public input in developing plans for a public park that would include a performance space and public restrooms.

The city will be soliciting ideas from the public for potential uses of the site.

Barkes presented the Hope Gardens of Grove City concept at the Dec. 16 council meeting.

The library site would offer a more centralized location for the garden and make it more accessible to a greater number of people, Barkes said.

Either site would work well, Chahine said.

"The garden would be a place of reflection, hope, relaxation and respite for people," he said.

The design concept for the garden includes Ohio hardy plants offering "a peaceful setting for experiencing the soothing impact of nature throughout the year," Barkes said.

The garden would include LED lighting, pathways, benches, small fountains and, in the "reflective center" of the site, a Hope Statue, she said. The statue has been created by Hope Gardens of Grove City vice president Rebecca Sommer, who owns Sommer House Gallery and Company in the Town Center.

"The statue depicts a family experiencing the emotions of life," Barkes said.

While the exact cost of establishing the garden still is to be determined, the best estimate of funding that would be needed is in the range of $500,000 to $1 million, depending on the final location and design details, Chahine said.

More information about the project and updates will be available at hopegrovecity.org and on social media, he said.

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