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Unofficial Park Vanishes, Single-Family Home Coming to Wicker Park Corner

By Alisa Hauser | September 4, 2013 9:26am
 An unofficial park on the southeast corner of Wolcott Avenue and Ellen Street in Wicker Park which sprouted up amost overnight two years ago has disappeared just as quickly. 
Unofficial 'Elcott' Park Disappears
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WICKER PARK —  A short-lived but much-appreciated neighborhood park has disappeared in recent weeks, with a three-story single-family home planned for a quiet corner of Wicker Park.

Two years ago, the renegade park sprouted up almost overnight, after Matthew Mills, a psychiatrist, decided to do something about a blighted patch of land at the southeast corner of Ellen Street and Wolcott Avenue.

Dubbed "Elcott Garden," for the merging of the two street names, the park, which evolved over a five-month period from March 2011 to August of 2011, provided a patch of respite for local residents and dog owners.

But it wasn't an official park, at least by the city's standards. 

In August 2011, Mills told a local blog that after walking by the corner with his wife and their two dogs for the last few years, he decided to do something about the eyesore, even if it meant digging, raking, mulching, planting, and eventually pruning the land himself.

In early August, the park vanished and was replaced with a construction fence and even more recently, a concrete foundation for a new home.

A City of Chicago permit dated June 6 for an $800,000 construction project to erect a three-story single-family home with an attached garage lists Mills as the owner of the land.

Kym Hinton, 31, an editor who lives near the park and frequently hung out there with her dog, Stella, described the park as "a nice place to sit and read."

"I'm sad it's gone. And it happened so fast," Hinton said.

On a recent Sunday, Ryan Postel, a Wicker Park resident, was walking his two dogs on the sidewalk along the fence covering the former park.

Postel said he enjoyed the homey touches in the park, like a sign he recalled seeing that said something like, "This park will stay open as long as you clean up after your dogs."

"It was certainly nice to have [the park], and I appreciated it, but I can't complain about someone else who owns it. It's their property. If it were city property and a city park I'd have my arms up about it," Postel said.

Rebecca Geissler, 26, moved into an apartment next to the park in August, and at the time she looked at the apartment in July, the park was still intact.

"I thought we're going to have barbecues there, but it's his property," Geissler said of Mills.

Mills declined to comment for this story.