LOGAN SQUARE — As the city continues to clean up from last week's floods, Logan Square residents are sitting on a pile of free money they could use to weatherproof their homes and businesses.
Last year, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency awarded $200,000 to homeowners and businesses in the area along Milwaukee Avenue between California and Central Park avenues.
Ald. Rey Colon (35th) and the Metropolitan Council founded the Milwaukee Avenue Green Development Corridor to let eligible property owners know about grants for improvement projects.
The money — about $80,000 is still available — can be used for various projects designed to reduce flooding from storm water, including things like rain barrels and permeable paving, which help soak up rainwater instead of letting it run off into streets and sidewalks.
The largest project is a rain garden planned for a drab, triangular concrete plaza created by Kimball Avenue, Milwaukee Avenue and Woodard Street just north of Diversey Avenue.
Though the $400,000 project is mostly funded by the Chicago Department of Transportation, $35,000 came from Milwaukee Avenue Green Development Corridor funds.
"We're happy to be a part of that, but we certainly don't want to take all the credit," said Josh Ellis, a program director with the Metropolitan Planning Council.
The proposed plaza will have a "swirl kind of feature" that Ellis said will direct rainwater into plants and trees.
Improvements like that and four others planned for private homes may help reduce the kind of flooding that has forced nearby businesses to close several times in recent years, Ellis said.
One of the houses was already fitted with improvements last fall. They were just small additions — a rain barrel and permeable walkway — but every little bit counts, Ellis said.
"I'm not saying the neighborhood's flooding problem will be solved by our six small projects, but we are chipping away at it," he said.
Four other homeowners will be going ahead with projects this spring, including rain gardens of their own with permeable gravel areas, and rocks and native plants that direct and filter water.
All told, the additions to the four residences will capture 175,000 gallons of water annually, keeping it from flooding the streets and overtaxing the sewer system.
All of those projects and any others that approved this spring are expected to be completed this summer.
Residents along the corridor have until May 31 to apply for the remaining money, Ellis said. More information can be found on the website.