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Bucktown Community Garden Coming to Vacant Patch of Land Behind Library

By Alisa Hauser | September 12, 2013 3:39pm
 A triangular patch of land that spans two city lots behind the Bucktown Wicker Park Library will become a community garden, the city announced.
A triangular patch of land that spans two city lots behind the Bucktown Wicker Park Library will become a community garden, the city announced.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

BUCKTOWN — Two vacant lots in Bucktown will become community gardens, the city announced this week.

The city-owned land parcels at 1724 N. Wilmot Ave. and 1716 N. Hoyne Ave. will be sold for $1 to NeighborSpace land trust and redeveloped into gardens managed by a members of the Bucktown Community Organization.

According to a news release issued by the city, NeighborSpace "will own and insure the property for community use."

Based in Humboldt Park, the nonprofit organization owns and leases nearly 90 gardens throughout the city, said NeighborSpace Executive Director Ben Helphand.

Helphand said his group "specializes in odd-shaped forgotten pieces of land" and he's "excited about this tiny powerhouse of a park," which is about 7,200 square feet and will be an ornamental park, meaning no food will be grown there.

For several years, the land has been used as an unofficial dog park.

No dogs will be allowed in the NeighborSpace park due to insurance issues, Helphand said.

Since the site formerly housed a dry cleaners, Helphand said NeighborSpace will be working with a consulting firm to do remediation in the fall "if everything goes well."

The city also announced this week that the site will receive $90,000 in Open Space Impact Fees to complete environmental work and site preparation.

Sam Marts and Eva Bergant, members of the Bucktown Community Organization's gardening club, initiated the project a few years ago, though it took longer than expected due to the fact the dry cleaners used to be located on the site, Helphand said.

"It was just a question of making sure the site is safe, we had to get funds to do the environmental assessment," Helphand said.

Marts and Bergant were among a group of volunteers who recently relocated flowers and plants from Churchill Park to the future park.

That move was an attempt to rescue the plants in advance of impending construction at Churchill Park, one of five access parks in the '606' system leading to the Bloomingdale trail, which broke ground in August.

In July, Steve Jensen, president of the Bucktown Community Organization, said that a bench would be installed in the future garden and dedicated to Marcella Juszynski, a WWII survivor who passed away on her front porch in Bucktown in July.

Founded in 1996, NeighborSpace exists as an inter-governmental agreement between the city, Chicago Park District and Cook County Forest Preserve District, and receives funding from private donations, too. For more information, visit the group's website.