The Chicago City Council recently voted unanimously to allocate $155,000 to cover the costs of building the proposed Veteran's Peace Garden at 5413 West Madison Street, across the street from MacArthur's restaurant.
The garden is something that the South Austin Neighborhood Association (SANA) has been working toward since 2016. It will honor Austin veterans and provide a space for public activities. The association also envisions it as a place of quiet contemplation along busy Madison Street.
Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), who is a veteran himself, has been a vocal supporter. The costs will come from the city's Open Space Impact Fee program.
According to the city's website, the program "allocates fees that are applied to new residential developments to pay for land acquisition and park improvements in each of Chicago's 77 community areas."
Meg Gustafson, a project coordinator at the city's Department of Planning and Development, told aldermen on March 26 that the Open Space Impact Fee program will pay for $155,000 of the project. Around $90,000 will come from Ald. Taliaferro's aldermanic menu budget.
According to a LinkedIn post that SANA posted in January, the concept of the veterans' garden came out of the group's discussion about what they could do to serve veterans in Austin. The organization felt that it was an underserved population, noting that Austin didn't have a Veterans of Foreign Wars post, or any other place where they could meet and hold activities.
The group decided to create something that would honor veterans of all wars American troops were involved in. The park would also honor dogs that served in the military.
Terry Redmond, a SANA board member, is a veteran herself. Redmond said that she reached out to other Austin veterans and they agreed to work with her organization to maintain the garden once it goes up.
In 2017, SANA teamed up with NeighborSpace, an East Garfield Park-based nonprofit that helps community groups build community gardens by buying property and handling logistics such as securing water and buying insurance.
According to information on SANA's website and NeighorSpace's project page, the garden will have a fence, complete with a peace symbol and codes of arms of all four branches of the U.S. military.
Beyond the gate, a path will lead the visitors toward a "flag circle," which will feature the U.S. flag and the flags of the military branches. The path will continue to the north end of the lot, leading to a pavilion area on the right and a sitting area on the left. Redmond said that the garden would also feature a butterfly garden and a sculpture.
According to the documents submitted to the Chicago City Council, the project is expected to cost a total of $245,088 with $30,000 of it going toward land acquisition and $22,088 going toward project management. The rest of the money will go toward construction, site preparation and planting.
Redmond said that now that the funding has been approved, SANA will sit down with NeighorSpace and Christy Webber, whose landscaping company is helping with the design, to discuss some of the particulars.
Redmond said that it is still too early to talk about when the garden would open, but that, with the funding hurdle cleared, she's feeling optimistic about the project's pending completion.
"We're getting close," she said. "We're finally getting closer."
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