Community Garden Slated for Empty Lot Next to Walgreens

By Hunter Clauss | Thursday, April 22, 2010

The city-owned vacant lot located next to the Walgreens near Lawrence and Western avenues won’t be completely empty for long. That’s because a new community garden is slated for the location, which was formerly occupied by a burnt-out apartment building that was demolished last year. The city paid $1.4 million to acquire the property in 2008, according to Molly Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Community Development. Sullivan said the city would like to further develop the site, but she said “there are no firm plans yet.”

The community garden is a collaboration between Lincoln Square alderman Eugene Schulter’s office, the Lincoln Square Foundation, the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce, and Internet-provider Clear, which donated $2,500 to the project. A groundbreaking ceremony for the project is scheduled for?Wednesday, April 22.

“Having a vacant lot is not in the best interest for the neighborhood, especially in this economy,” says Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce executive director Melissa Flynn. “[The community garden] changes an ugly, underutilized space. It can really be a way to revitalize the block and get the community engaged with the block.”

Flynn says the chamber of commerce is donating $10,000 of special service area money to help fund the project. Special service areas are like tax increment finance districts, but funds are collected through a property tax levy.

The city purchased the site after a controversial plan by Schulter to redevelop the Lincoln Square business district was tabled in 2007. Schulter had introduced an ordinance in the City Council that called for the city to use its eminent domain powers to acquire the 4800 block of Western, but that plan was scrapped due to protests from business owners and residents.

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