Chicago Sells Vacant Lots for $1 Each, Encourages Urban Gardening

Chicago Sells Vacant Lots

As a welcome slap in the face to smaller towns like Oak Park, Michigan, and Leawood, Kansas, that bafflingly prohibit such healthy, pro-community projects as vegetable gardens and Little Free Libraries in property owners’ own front yards, Chicago, Illinois is permitting property owners in greater Englewood to purchase city-owned vacant lots at $1 per parcel, and to do what they’d like with them.

Mind you, you can’t just move to Chicago and buy up vacant lots as easy as if you’re putting hotels on Park Place and Boardwalk; this incentive is only open to those who already own property on that block, owe no property taxes, and have no unpaid city fines (quick, pay your parking tickets!). But the sales will be fast-tracked, so you should just be able to squeak that fall garden in, or build that co-op playground that you and your neighbors have always talked about before winter sets in.

Can you imagine how many people could be fed by a community garden the size of a vacant lot? How convenient it would be to be able to build the art studio or home office space that you’ve always wanted right next door to your current house? How much kids would love to have a little park in their neighborhood, built and maintained by their parents and parents’ friends?

Yes, I’m sure there are going to be some ugly lots. Some person will buy a lot and leave it weedy and vacant. Some person will build a really ugly building on their lot. Some person will use their lot as a glorified parking lot.

But all that is predictable. What’s going to be the wonderful surprise is the person who makes their lot into an amazing art installation, or the neighborhood that turns their lot into a community gathering place, or the family that puts their lot to some creative use that I can’t even predict.

THAT’S what I can’t wait to see!

[vacant lot garden image via Mark Hogan, under this Creative Commons license.]

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Author: Julie Finn

  1. That is such an awesome idea! All the cool things that I could do with an vacant lot! A labyrinth, a playground, a neighborhood garden, an open air art studio, a place like that one article I read (that I’m pretty sure you shared) that talked about kids playing in a vacant lot overseas somewhere.
    Being Debbie Downer, I wonder what kind of insurance someone would have to carry if they did open a neighborhood playground or other such community gathering space like that.

    • I bet it would be crazy insurance. I wonder what they do in that case? There are some tweens who sometimes hang out at the edge of our property on drive-in nights, just sitting around and talking about boys, I imagine, but I always keep a weather eye on them because I can’t help but think, “If that kid falls and breaks her leg in MY yard, my insurance is going to go nuts!”

      • That’s the sad state of our sue happy country. I’d think about making the kids sign a waiver, but I discovered in my business law class, that those really don’t carry much weight in court.

        I want to say, and of course this is just my assumption, your insurance doesn’t have to pay unless the injured party sues or you are found at fault. But I’m just pulling that info out of my, well, you know.

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