Community Garden Project to Finally Take Root

By Laura Pearson | Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Lincoln Square Community Garden has remained fallow since the April groundbreaking. Photo by Mike Fourcher.

Last April we reported that a city-owned vacant lot next to the Walgreens near Lawrence and Western avenues (4811 N. Lincoln Ave.) wouldn’t be empty for long: It would soon be the site of a community garden?a collaborative effort between the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce and Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th). There was an official groundbreaking ceremony on Earth Day, and Melissa Flynn, Executive Director of the Chamber, said, “Having a vacant lot is not in the best interest for the neighborhood, especially in this economy.” A garden, she said, would revitalize the block and transform “an ugly, underutilized space.” But in the following months, the lot remained empty and undeveloped?that is, until now.

According to the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce and Ald. Schulter (working in conjunction with the Lincoln Square SSA #21, the Department of the Environment, and the Department of Community Development), work is commencing soon on the Lincoln Square Community Garden.

In a July 16 statement, they said, “Construction on this project is dependent on a resolution to the ongoing labor strike,” but since then, the three-week citywide construction strike appears to be ending. Schulter’s communications director Robert Rawls said that while an exact date hasn’t been set, work is expected to begin in the next few days.

“We have taken our time to make sure that this garden is created with practices that meet the standards of health and safety, including soil testing and the addition of new soil,” stated the collaborators. Their aim is to allow opportunities for residents, schools, and businesses to grow flowers and vegetables, while also creating a model that can be used by other communities.

“The big thing we’re trying to do is make [the garden] replicable,” Flynn said. “We’re trying to work with the City so that other people in other neighborhoods who want to do this can do it. So we’re trying to keep the basic design as simple as possible while also allowing flexibility.” She said that if a local restaurant wanted to grow a certain crop, for instance, the garden would provide a space in which to do so. Or if a school group wanted to become involved, students wouldn’t necessarily be confined to certain plots.

“We can move things around a little bit,” Flynn said. “We’re trying to keep [the design] very low-key and will probably add elements as we go along.” Local landscape architect Robert Brooks, of Autumn Ridge Land and Site Design, created the plan for the garden.

Applications for participation are not currently being accepted, but when plots become available post-construction, the Lincoln Square Chamber and 47th Ward website will post info. for interested participants.

As to whether the long-awaited garden will become a permanent fixture in the neighborhood, Rawls said that the long-term nature of the project will depend on the economy, but that it’s a “huge first step in beautifying this block.”

“There have been a few hiccups along the way, but we think it will be a real benefit for the community,” he said.

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