Now that the City of Chicago has improved several vacant lots in North Lawndale, having added features to reduce flooding in the surrounding blocks and make them more suitable for recreation, local community organizations will be stepping in to take care of those spaces.
In 2013, the city launched the Resilient Corridors project in order to flooding on the West Side through implementing various flood mitigation features at several city-owned lots. Local nonprofit organizations would be responsible for maintaining the spaces and running community programs.
On July 24, the City Council unanimously approved the lease with Young Professionals of North Lawndale for a large lot near the Del-Kar Pharmacy building and a lease with Lawndale Christian Health Center for lots near the Pink Line’s Central Park ‘L’ station.
The leases were approved by a routine vote on a package of ordinances and resolutions that cleared the Committee on Housing & Real Estate earlier that month.
During a community meeting hosted by Ald. Michael Scott (24th) in 2017, Michael Berkshire, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development’s green projects administrator, said that the same set of pipes that carry water going into faucets also carries water that gets collected when it rains — a major weakness in the system.
To take the burden off the sewers, the lots are modified to either store the water until after the rain stops or absorb the water into the ground.
Once the improvements were completed, the city planned to lease the lots to area community organizations, which would be responsible for maintaining them and organizing community programs. According to city documents, the lots are leased for a symbolic $1 a year until Dec. 31, 2023, though they may be renewed for up to two more years.
Young Professionals of North Lawndale is nonprofit organization headed by Edwin Muldrow, the owner of Del Kar Drugs pharmacy, at 3724-25 W. 16th St. According to the group’s Facebook page and Muldrow’s LinkedIn page, the organization’s goal is to “connect young professionals to diverse opportunities for networking, health, professional development and community involvement.”
The city installed a paved area in the lot that is permeable, so rain can seep through. Some of it goes into a temporary water holding tank on the site and some goes into the ground. The city also planted trees and native plants on the rest of the lot in order in order to stabilize the soil and encourage more water to seep into the ground.
Muldrow said that he didn’t know that the lease was approved until contacted by the newspaper, adding that he was not prepared to share any details about what his group would do with the lot until he receives the signed lease from the city.
“I don’t want to count the chickens before they hatch,” he said.