Vacant lots – shrouded in wild flowers, speckled with garbage and abandoned without care – have long permeated the blocks of Englewood, a neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. Their locations don’t discriminate. They sit next to family homes and businesses, foreclosed properties or other vacant lots. How they came to be abandoned is often unclear. They’ve been that way for so long.
Through a City of Chicago-sponsored Large Lots Program, residents of Englewood have the opportunity to revitalize their blocks by purchasing vacant spaces for a single dollar. The only requirements are that applicants already own property on the same block of the lot they wish to purchase, and they state their plan to repurpose the lot.
The City sold 276 lots to community members in greater Englewood in December 2014 as part of an initial pilot of the Large Lots Program. In May 2016, 16 lot owners received small grants of $1,600-$2,500 from LISC Chicago through Teamwork Englewood. Sammiria Malcone, Linda Maalik and Delece Williams are long-time residents who decided to take part in the creative placemaking program. They spent their funds on prepping their properties for a comeback.
Though varying in vision, all share a common goal: To create something beautiful and useful for their community. However, despite initial funding, the projects haven't been without setbacks. The process is time-consuming, costly and often thankless. Yet it's one small step in a revitalizing a community desperately in need.
This project is ongoing.