ENGLEWOOD — A pop-up plaza designed to help neighbors “take the stress of the day away” through dance, play and more will soon open in Englewood.
The Englewood Breakroom, a pop-up dedicated to the community’s love for music, sports and fashion, will open at 1539 W. 63rd St. this summer. Organizers have set a tentative celebration for June 30 to welcome neighbors.
The Englewood court was one of 10 projects awarded grants of up to $500,000 by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to transform vacant spaces into interactive community hubs. The money was part of the city’s Chicago Recovery Plan.
Corie Luckett, founder of clothing store Englewood Branded, and Cecile DeMello, executive director at community organization Teamwork Englewood, piloted the Englewood Breakroom.
The pop-up plaza will include stages for live music and fashion shows, a transitional basketball, volleyball and tennis court, outdoor retail space and concession stands, Luckett said. The court is coated in hues of gold, blue and brown, similar to Luckett’s store.
Neighbors who want to take their remote work outdoors can work at the plaza using its free Wi-Fi. Home-based businesses can “come out to events and sell their products,” Luckett said.
Together, the Englewood organizers have created a space that will honor the community’s passion for the arts while giving neighbors of all ages a place to relax, interact and support a new, bustling 63rd Street corridor, they said.
“This is an example of community-driven economic development on the corridor,” DeMello said. “It’s about having something beautiful that shows a little bit of the Englewood pride on 63rd Street while building a positive, beautiful message around the work we’ve been doing.”
Teamwork Englewood has long guided the community’s Quality of Life Plan, meeting with neighbors to discuss concerns and hopes for Englewood, DeMello said.
Chicago Police Department beats 712 and 725, both within the Englewood (7th) District, were areas identified as “consistent drivers of crime in Greater Englewood,” DeMello said.
While conducting research for the Quality of Life Plan, Teamwork Englewood found that within those police beats there was “infrastructure that needs to be addressed that could positively impact public safety,” DeMello said.
Moran Park in beat 712 was a space that “had a lot of complaints from residents about crime, and people felt like wasn’t their park,” DeMello said.
For the last three years, Teamwork Englewood has worked to make the park a “public space for activation” with community-led events and youth activities, DeMello said. The park at 5727 S. Racine Ave. will receive a new field house and water spray this year.
Having made improvements in beat 712, Teamwork Englewood set its sights on beat 725, DeMello said. That’s where Luckett comes in, she said.
Luckett has been cleaning and taking care of the lot on 63rd Street since he opened his store in 2017, he said. As part of his business model, he donates 10 percent of profits at his clothing store to youth and community-led events, he said.
DeMello took note of Luckett’s dedication to the corridor, she said. When someone from the city recommended she check out a new initiative to fund pop-up plazas, Lockett’s lot came to mind, she said.
“We thought it was a priority to support him as much as we can because his work helps establish relationships and bring positive activities to the beat,” DeMello said.
Luckett and DeMello put in their plaza proposal in April 2022, DeMello said. They received notice they were one of 10 winners by the end of summer 2022, DeMello said. Since then, the two have been busy with a “full plate” of work, Luckett said.
The Englewood Breakroom is an ode to the arts that flow through the community, DeMello said. The Englewood Arts Collective helped design the plaza.
“We are a community that expresses themselves through art and culture in a real way,” DeMello said. “We’re hoping that with the theme of fashion, art and music, we are helping to call out our community’s positive notoriety to contributions around the world.”
Englewood residents are “in love with music and sports,” Luckett said. It was key to create a “music-friendly and sports-activated” space, he said.
Health and wellness are also important issues in the community, Luckett said. Neighbors will be able to visit the Englewood Breakroom for community exercise events, sports games and resource fairs, Luckett said.
Activities will cater to all ages, Luckett said. The organizations are “curating a schedule that will be able to support and touch the entire community,” Luckett said.
“We want people to come to the Breakroom and take the stress of the day away,” Luckett said. “Get a break right here at the Breakroom.”
The Englewood Breakroom is a pivotal step toward curbing violence in the 725 beat, DeMello said.
Violence prevention work is “multi-layered,” DeMello said. It takes “outreach work, community leadership, investment, victim services and more” to assist a long-deprived community, DeMello said. Communities need public space activation and “environmental design investments” to see a change, DeMello said.
The plaza also adds to the “economic vitality” growing along the 63rd Street corridor, DeMello said.
The Go Green On Racine Community Fresh Market, 1207 W. 63rd St., opened in March 2022, bringing fresh food and healthy essentials to the community.
The Go Green On Racine team recently received overwhelming support to reopen the Racine Green Line station. And the group is moving forward with plans to transform a vacant school at 6206 S. Racine Ave. into the Regenerator, a 60,000-square-foot housing facility.
“I want the court to be nestled in the larger narrative of the work happening on 63rd Street,” DeMello said. “This work was outlined in the Quality of Life Plan, and it is being developed by key stakeholders. The court is another layer on this opportunity for growth.”
Community organizations that launch pop-up courts have the “right of entry” to the city-owned space for three years, DeMello said.
Luckett was in the process of trying to obtain the 63rd Street lot before he received the grant, he said. He hopes the city will consider letting him keep it as a public-activated space for years to come, he said.
“I’m hoping this space is a nice addition to what we’ve already been doing, and people will see that we are dedicated to making a change and difference within the community,” Luckett said. “Hopefully, we can acquire a couple more lots to make that corner a nice spot.”
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