posted by chicago pop
From: Jack Spicer
Date: Mon, Oct 12, 2009 at 8:56 PM
Subject: community garden demolition
Dear 61st Street Community Gardeners and Friends --
Most of you now know that the University of Chicago intends to demolish the community garden at 61st Street and Dorchester Avenue shortly after Halloween. Many of you have responded to the news. You have expressed sadness at the potential loss and frustration and disappointment with the University. A number of you also asked questions that I will try to answer.
But first, Jamie Kalven has interviewed many gardeners in their plots at the garden. The video of the interviews, The Garden Conversations, is now being published, a few conversations per day, at www.invisibleinstitute.com. If you would like to be interviewed or have thoughts you want to share with Jamie, please contact him at
And second, in today's Tribune Dawn Trice talks with gardener Deb Hammond about how the community garden has affected her life. Here is a link to the story:
And now the questions:
Is it really "essential" to use the garden for construction staging?
No, I doubt it's essential. Maybe "convenient" and it would probably save a little money, but the CTS building, a block away, could certainly be built without demolishing the garden. Contractors build skyscrapers in the Loop without even blocking the public sidewalk. Any independent professional construction manager could verify that the garden site is not essential to constructing the CTS building. We would encourage the University to submit the issue to an independent professional.
Is the Chicago Theological Seminary causing the demolition of the garden?
No, they made a verbal agreement with the UofC that no harm would come to the garden as a result of their new building being built. They were looking forward to having the garden as a neighbor for their sustainable building. The University unilaterally withdrew from that agreement. We've spoken to the new CTS dean, Alice Hunt, and found her to be honest and honorable. I think CTS has done what it can do to protect the garden from the UofC's construction project. I plan to attend the CTS groundbreaking on Thursday as a friend and (current) neighbor.
Isn't it UofC's private property, and can't they do anything they want?
The garden site certainly is their property and they have generously let us use it for the past ten years. We had hoped the contribution the garden has made to the community would be apparent, and the University would act as a good neighbor and allow the garden to live on. Good neighbors and good will are valuable things, not to be wasted. But we had also hoped they would see the garden as serving their own best interests by enriching the neighborhood where their students, staff and faculty want to live.
What's the real reason the UofC is demolishing the garden?
I don't know. I doubt it's a practical decision based solely on construction convenience. The social fallout -- unhappy gardeners, neighbors, students, and faculty; skepticism about the UofC's commitment to sustainability and to living convivially with its Woodlawn neighbors; bad press; etc. -- far outweighs the temporary convenience. It's more likely that it's a policy decision from the Office of Civic Engagement
-- Jack Spicer
Please check the garden website, www.61streetgarden.com for updates. You can make comments or ask questions there at "info."
I hope you enjoy "The Garden Conversations" at: www.invisibleinstitute.com.
I'm told there is a Facebook group at: "bulldozers versus 61st Street Community Garden"