"It is easier to build a strong child than to repair a broken man." - Frederick Douglass

POPGrove, New Public Plaza Recently Opened in West Garfield Park

Courtesy of Jonathan Lee (Flicker CC0)

At 4453 West Madison Street in West Garfield Park on August 19, City of Chicago Officials officially opened POPGrove, one of many Public Outdoor Plaza spaces. POP! is a component of the $1.2 billion Chicago Recovery Plan’s strategy for a fair economic recovery and assistance for vibrant and secure neighborhoods.

A vacant lot has now been turned into a plaza that includes active and passive recreation spaces in the center, a shaded grove along the sidewalk, and a natural playscape in a rear yard, according to descriptions by the City of Chicago officials.

“These transformational projects will bring back what these sites have been missing for years: people and socioeconomic activity,” Mayor Lightfoot said during an announcement. “With their colorful, artistic design and multipurpose spaces, Public Outdoor Plazas, POP, will give residents a reason to spend time outside in their own neighborhood, patronize local businesses and enjoy the unique offerings of our great city.”

The plaza was paid for with funding from the Chicago Recovery Plan. The funding will be paying for other construction, maintenance, and management over the next three years. Ten public plazas will create spaces for recreation, performances, gardening, and pop-up shops, amongst other neighborhood activities at locations that span across the North, West, and South Sides of Chicago.

“These beautifully constructed and easily accessible areas will serve as hubs for leisure activities, public amenities, and the arts, demonstrating the city’s dedication to a fair and sustainable economic recovery,” DPD Commissioner Maurice Cox said.

Courtesy of Jacob G. (Flickr CC0)

Some of the projects include:

  • POPGrove – located at 4453 West Madison Street, West Garfield Park. It is a 6,250-square-foot lot owned by the City of Chicago, and planned by the West Side Health Authority, will cater to family activities with a three-part design that of which includes active and passive recreation spaces in the center, a shaded grove along the sidewalk, and a natural playscape in a rear yard. The plaza was designed by Lamar Johnson Collaborative with public art by Ava Grey Designs, It is near a #20 CTA bus stop, and on both sides it is in the middle of buildings that are owned by Crosses of Cavalry Church.
  • Mahalia Jackson Court – located at 1-21 East 79th Street, Chatham. It is an 8,500 square-foot-site owned by Carter Temple Church, by the Greater Chatham Initiative. The plaza will take advantage of its transit-oriented placement of location near the 79th Street CTA train station which has space for food trucks,  a café, and pop-up businesses. The plaza will feature a memorial honoring the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson.
  • WACA Bell Park – 1921 South Drake Avenue, North Lawndale. Planned by the Site Design Group, along with the New Covenant CDC, the work will hope to improve an already existing place with a mural, art installations, an existing public space with enhanced basketball facilities, space for large public gatherings, and enhanced basketball facilities.

The RFP, which was issued in March of 2022, received 18 responses, from which they chose the projects. On the basis of viability, regional needs, and project design, proposals were assessed. The beginning of work has already started this summer.

Two finalists from a previous POP! RFP released this winter, POPGrove at 4453 West Madison Street in West Garfield Park and Mahalia Jackson Court at 1 East 79th Street in Chatham, both began construction this spring.

Out of the $5.3 million awarded, eight of the ten projects totaling more than $3.8 million are in INVEST South/West communities. INVEST South/West is a ground-breaking community development program that unites the efforts of numerous City agencies, neighborhood groups, and business and philanthropic partners to support 12 commercial corridors in 10 South and West Side neighborhoods. Over $1.4 billion in public and private investments have already been mobilized for the initiative, which will help small businesses, improve the public realm, renovate historic structures, and promote resilience and equity where it is most needed.

Written by Lance Santoyo
Edited by Sheena Robertson


Chicago Construction News: POP! Plazas planned for 10 Chicago neighborhoods

Chicago: POP! Plazas Planned for Nine Chicago Neighborhoods

Urbanize Chicago: POP! Plazas planned for West Garfield Park and Chatham

AustinWeeklyNews: From vacant lot to public plaza, new West Side park shines and shades

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Jonathan Lee Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Inset Image Courtesy of Jacob G. Flickr Page – Creative Commons License


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