During the next step of Little Village’s effort to clean and remediate local brownfields, the nonprofit Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) unveiled plans for two neighboring sites, which total over 24 acres of land.
One site will become a soccer field with walking trails. The other will host organic beans and tomatoes. Both sites are former contaminated brownfields that comprise the first new green spaces in more than 80 years in a community that ranks second-worst in Chicago in available open space. LVEJO and community members hope that these sites can become catalysts for local anti-obesity and climate change efforts.
This is the first large-scale community garden within the neighborhood. Designed for gardening, learning and socializing, the half-acre parcel at 2727 S. Troy will be a place that all residents can engage their love of gardening.
Components of the plan include a central plaza, children’s garden, a crop preparation area and raised planting beds where gardeners can grow their vegetables. In addition, the plan also calls for amenities that will incorporate a cooking oven, pergolas for shade, benches and places for growing pumpkins and other vines. Not only will the garden be a place to showcase produce, it will be an educational destination.
The plan was commissioned by the City of Chicago as part of its effort to facilitate urban agriculture on city-owned property. The plan was developed by Chicago-based WRD Environmental with input from Little Village residents. Chicago will convey the site to NeighborSpace, a nonprofit land trust that helps community groups protect and secure gardens, parks and other open spaces.
In addition to the garden, LVEJO worked to remediate another site located at 2800 S. Sacramento. The former Celotex superfund site was used for making, storing and selling asphalt roofing products. The culmination of a decade-long effort by LVEJO to clean the site and turn it into an accessible and usable green space, the City of Chicago acquired the property with intent to develop it with the Chicago Park District.
LVEJO and community members got a head start on planning and design. Over the past three years, the organization held several community meetings to obtain community input on the park’s layout and features. In collaboration with The School of the Art Institute, the community documented their plan, which will be the catalyst when residents begin working with the Chicago Park District landscape architect.
Both park and the community garden will play a pivotal role in LVEJO’s campaign to fight obesity and climate change. By being able to grow and sell their own organic produce, residents will have access to affordable and healthy food choices. In addition to that, the Little Village residents will reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions resulting from shipping produce, which average 1,300 miles. The park will provide active recreation, be a local model for rainwater recycling and stormwater harvesting and provide wildlife habitats.
Images courtesy WRD Environmental
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