Urban gardening improves west side Chicago neighborhood


Poised between the Eisenhower Expressway and the western suburbs, the resident of Chicago’s west side neighborhood Austin have found a wonderful way to directly turn their rough neighborhood around. It’s not through tougher law enforcement, nor through everyone packing heat. It’s by turning the empty lots into vegetable gardens.

The Chicago Tribune ran an article on this.

Things that stood out in the article for me:

• “Chicago has about 15,000 city-owned parcels, most of which are vacant, said Molly Sullivan, director of communications for the Department of Community Development.”

(Milwaukee has about 3,000 empty lots, while Detroit has an overwhelming 100,000 empty lots. Fortunately, Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. is interested in turning many of those empty lots into urban farms. Milwaukee has taken a mildly pro-active stance with turning lots into garden spaces as well.)

• “You can change from looking at unemployment and looking at what people don’t have to looking at what people have. When you show people growing their own food, everyone eats,” [said Harry Rhodes, executive director of Growing Home, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping ex-convicts and homeless people rebuild their lives through urban farming.] “When you go in and you see green—you see flowers, you see gardens—it changes a whole community.”

The proof is in the pudding: Urban gardening changes communities for the better.


Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.

3 thoughts on “Urban gardening improves west side Chicago neighborhood”

  1. A few years ago I read an article about some urban gardens in the Cabrini Green area in Chicago. They thought that extensive soil remediation would be necessary and were really surprised to find through testing that the soil was rich and not at all contaminated. Amazing how the urban soils can bounce back.

  2. There is a project at Kilbourne Park tomorrow (4/18/09) starting at 0900. I just found out about it. It is just the kind of thing you are talking about: the community-created garden.

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