Here’s what locals have to say.

By Sarah Conway, Alma Campos and Ayinde Jean-Baptiste

Maywood resident Willie Shears at the Garfield Park Neighborhood Market

Maywood resident Willie Shears at the Garfield Park Neighborhood Market

This fall, City Bureau is tackling the issue of economic development and gentrification in East Garfield Park. We visited two neighborhood events in October to find out what development would mean to residents and people who frequent the area.

Garfield Park Neighborhood Market

This project, supported by the Garfield Park Community Council, infuses fresh produce into the neighborhood from the Garden Network, a 31-member association of local gardens. Located on a reclaimed vacant lot at the intersection of Kedzie and Lake just below the El tracks and across the street from the new food business incubator The Hatchery, the market carries fresh produce and other products from local neighborhood growers as well as art, food vendors and family-friendly activities.

Willie Shears, Maywood, Ill., comes to the Garfield Park Neighborhood Market for natural products like natural honey. Shears, who grew up ‘Out West’ likes to support gardens and small businesses in the area.

How long have you been coming to the farmers market and why?

This is my third year coming. I go to different farms [in the neighborhood] that have naturally grown produce. I try to go and support different ones. I used to grow my own fruit — I had my own garden when my children were small. I got busy, and got out of it, but now I support those that do grow natural food.

When you hear the words ‘economic development,’ what does that mean to you?

It means to me that things are going to be done for the community that will help the people in the community to cause the community to grow and to change.

Is there anything like that nearby?

I don’t really think so because a lot of people talk about economic growth, but they aren’t doing anything to show the product of their talk. Actions speak louder than words to me. That’s why I like to come here. I see people, and I know that this [farmers market] is for the community. People are becoming more aware of natural products and how it is better for them. It’s a motivation for people who would like to do something. You are never too old to dig, you are never too old grow.

Jerome Lee, 54, East Chicago, Ind. (Brickyards), works security at the Garfield Park Community Garden events. He thinks the Hatchery is a good start to the growth of the community but he also thinks it may not be enough.

When you hear the words ‘economic development,’ what does that mean to you? Is there anything like that nearby? Donald Trump. I mean, it depends on where the development is at. If it’s helpful to an area, then it should be applied to. But if it’s somewhere where it’s not needed…but right now, there are a lot of places that need it. As a matter of fact, they are building something over there [points to Hatchery] but I don’t think that’s going to be enough. They are doing a culinary program involving bakers and cooks, like a school. It’s a good idea. I guess it’s a start for growth in the neighborhood.

Marcus Delgado, 27, Garfield Park, recently bought a home in the neighborhood after leaving the South Side because of the neighborhood’s proximity to his work. Delgado is involved in Garfield Park neighborhood watch and attends police beat meetings. He hopes that the opening of The Hatchery will help the local businesses and residents.

How long have you been coming to the Garfield Park Neighborhood Market?

It’s my first time. I’ve attended other farmer’s markets or events at the Conservatory but never actually in this space. It reminds me of the South Side. It feels more like a community, and it doesn’t seem as one-sided as other community gardens.

Where do people in Garfield Park come together?

That’s a good question. I’ve probably interacted with my neighbors more at the community discussions that take place at the local police station with the Alderman [Jason Ervin] but that’s more of my block, not the neighborhood as a whole. This is probably more of where I would see other neighbors outside of my immediate area, but again this is my first time here.

When you hear the words ‘economic development,’ what does that mean to you?

Generally, more focus on larger developments other than small businesses. It’s great that there is more development in general, but it would be nice to know who’s behind it and also how those are connected to local citizens. I try to follow what The Hatchery is doing specifically — what businesses will be going into that. It’s interesting. I hope that small businesses and the more independent ones can be a part of that.

Eddie Willis, Marshall high school alumnus, 65-year neighborhood resident. Willis does odd jobs in the neighborhood, and occasional work for Mike Tomas of the East Garfield Community Council, including setup at the Farmer’s Market.

When you hear the words ‘economic development,’ what does that mean to you?

What we need around here is some stores, some businesses where people can go shop. There’s no laundromat over here, you have to go all the way to Chicago Avenue, folks gotta go to North & Cicero to grocery shop. If you need medicine, the pharmacy, the Walgreens is by Western & Madison. Everybody has to go out the neighborhood to get what they need.

What about [The Hatchery]?

Folks didn’t even know the Hatchery was coming. That’s why they was over there picketing and shut down the site. Because there were no local workers.

How do people get information about things happening in the neighborhood? Where do people come together?

At Madison and Sacramento they have community meetings. Mike told us about them. When they have a meeting we pass out flyers. Breakthrough is another place people go.

Eco Orchard Community Meeting

Garfield Park Community Council, the City of Chicago and community stakeholders held a meeting on October 22 at Marshall High School to review two design concepts for a new community orchard that will be located on 5th avenue and Sacramento. This orchard will supply theGarfield Park Neighborhood Market fresh fruits and nuts, according to the Garfield Park Community Council.

Gina Jamison, 70, Garfield Park, was born and raised in the neighborhood. She has held ownership of her grandfather’s property since 1984, and is the founder of the Kuumba Tre-Ahm Community Garden which has 14 volunteers.

What’s your relationship to East Garfield Park?

I live here and I am on several committees — the Advisory Council, the Garfield Park Garden Network, Chicago Community Garden Association. I have a community garden. It is 5,000 sq. ft. It was my grandfather’s property. I was born in the house next to it. Totally connected. My grandfather moved from North Carolina in 1941 so the property has been in our family since 1941.

When you hear the words ‘economic development,’ what does that mean to you?

To make it vibrant — more commercial, more business, more community gardens, jobs for the community in the community.

Is there anything like that nearby?

Not specifically now, but it is in the making. Like the Hatchery. It is a small piece of economic development, but it is a piece. With that, more things will come into business. The Hatchery is just an incubator for people who are just starting out. Once they leave that space, they will be prepared to move into their own space. Hopefully that “space” will be here in Garfield Park.

What would the revitalization of the East Garfield Park area look to you and how would community be involved?

The revitalization is making our Garfield Park. It is the most beautiful place in the whole wide world. A lot has to be done. It’s been neglected. We have to make this space comfortable and safe — that’s the beginning.

What should investment in East Garfield Park look like?

If residents, instead of those that are leaving or having to leave, instead had a route to ownership. We need more ownership because that puts us at the table.

Raymont “Ray” Bell, 63, Pill Hill, is passionate about the intersection of economic, environmental and social justice issues. He leads the water preservation program at Faith in Place where he focuses on water management systems. Bell sat on a panel at the eco orchard meeting to share his perspective on green infrastructure projects and their potential for positive impact on communities.

When you hear the words ‘economic development,’ what does that mean to you?

That means there is a program that is trying to induce jobs and new commerce in a new area.

Is there anything like that nearby?

Not that I know of.

What would the revitalization of the Garfield Park area look like to you? How would community be involved?

Community would have to be involved. You don’t want a situation where there are new developments that come in and displace the people that are here, where they are put in a situation that they can’t afford to even live in the area anymore. There has to be development that brings new business and people to the community but also cuts out a space for the people that actually live here and help them profit from the changes in the area.

How can that be done?

It’s very hard for people to come in and spend million dollars and not get profit out of it. Unfortunately, a lot of people in the area can’t afford the prices that it takes to get the profit back. There has to be some kind of subsidization to build it out. If I build a nice new grocery store, the prices will be higher. I need people to actually shop in the areas. It is a hard draw to do that and not hurt or displace some of the people in the area.

What should investment look like in Garfield Park?

Unfortunately, we are sitting in a food desert. One of the biggest things is that we got to get healthy food in the area. The neighborhood residents need better choices for groceries and we need jobs.

Unfortunately, this is an area that was one of the hardest hit by the drug epidemic in the ’80s and ’90s. There is still a problem here with that. Education-wise you got to have training programs to bring people up to speed for the programs. It can be done but it will take a lot of effort and money. Someone has to really want to do it and not just talk about it.

How can someone build wealth in Garfield Park?

The biggest thing is to own property. Open small businesses. Get education and matriculate through the workforce, get jobs with 401k plans to assist in building wealth. There has to be some kind of education on how to actually build wealth. Now it is just living paycheck by paycheck.

What relationship does the community have with food?

There is no Mariano’s or Jewel within walking distance. You have to go to Oak Park or to another neighborhood to get a decent grocery store. People are never getting fresh or good quality food here so they are forced to grow their own.

Food Pantry, Breakthrough Urban Ministries’ Fresh Market

Wendy Daniels, 45, Austin, works in East Garfield Park as Breakthrough Urban Ministries’ Fresh Market and Food Pantry Coordinator. For Daniels, economic development is about involving the community and asking them what they need.

Where do people come together in Garfield Park?

The Golden Dome [Garfield Park’s fieldhouse] has a lot of programming where people come together and such. I know that Breakthrough [Urban Ministries] is a big part of East Garfield Park that has programming for kids and for adults. They have a fitness center. They also house Lawndale Fish and Health Center, so folks come and have their medicals done there. There’s a food pantry and transitional housing. That’s just to name a few.

Where do you get your news and information from?

I haven’t seen a newsletter or anything. I know the Austin community does. We have the Austin Weekly, and Lawndale has a paper. I haven’t seen anything in East Garfield Park. So, I really feel like lots of things are by word of mouth or if you are [already] integrated in some sort of programming then you find out about things that way.

Is there anything like that nearby?

So the Hatchery is coming up right on Kedzie avenue and Lake street. I would imagine that it would bring some economic development to the community. But, I didn’t know about the Hatchery until I saw the construction driving by. There was no community around, “Hey, do you need this? How do you think this will benefit your community?” I think that in general, in East Garfield, at least 75 percent of the residents did not know about it.

And there’s Breakthrough Urban Ministries with a fitness center and cafe where you can have lunch and buy snazzy drinks.

What should investment look like in East Garfield Park, in your opinion?

It’s about what is needed what is wanted. I think definitely that those things should be looked at in order to build and strengthen the community as opposed to just placing things here for “economic development.”

Arthetta Shaw, retired after a 30-year career in South Austin working for Chicago Public Schools, is a Garfield Park resident who volunteers at the Market.

When you hear the words ‘economic development,’ what does that mean to you?

When I think of economic development I think about jobs being readily available, and jobs being created, as well as people being able to get prepared to take these jobs. I don’t think there’s been enough energy put into getting these young men off the street corners. They’re out here, every day, the same ones, standing on the same corners, doing the same things. A lot of them are elementary school dropouts, I know that for a fact. I said you’ve got some thirteen-year-olds that should be in your classroom, standing on the corner, and that was never addressed. So now they’re thirty-something-years-old, in and out of the jail system and back and forth on the street corner. Enough energy, the right kind of energy has not been put into correcting that.

Breakthrough does some job training work. Have you heard anything about the job training that’s supposed to happen at the Hatchery?

How is the word being spread? We don’t get a lot of information here, most of us are volunteers. The staff people might know and it hasn’t been communicated to us, that could very well be the case.


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