WEST LOOP — What started as an innovative idea to bring a vacant lot to life has blossomed into a full-fledged community garden in the West Loop.
Now, the successful experiment will be renewed for another growing season next year, with plans to expand to a second vacant lot in the booming neighborhood.
West Loop resident Moshe Tamssot, who led efforts to create the temporary community garden on a vacant lot at 37 S. Sangamon St. near Merit School of Music, said the Sangamon site’s owners have agreed to let residents use the lot to grow again for the 2019 season. Tamssot said he is in the process of signing a formal contract for the 2019 growing season with the site’s owner before the end of the year.
“The developer was impressed and saw that it was a proven concept that works,” said Tamssot, founder of neighborhood-focused Facebook page True West Loop.
And the garden crew could be getting a second site to grow on at 1050 W. Van Buren St., former home to Guy & Sons Auto Rebuilders, on the south end of the West Loop. Developers Tandem Partners plan to build two high rises at 1050 W. Van Buren and 1125 W. Van Buren.
At a meeting last week, representatives for Tandem Partners committed to allowing Tamssot and other West Loop residents to create a community garden at the 1050 W. Van Buren site during the 2019 spring and summer season.
Tamssot estimates the larger lot would allow for an additional 200 GrowPods, which would double the number of kiddie pools used to grow at the original site.
The garden project has caught the attention of Ald. Danny Solis (25th), who suggested Tandem Partners consider allowing community gardens on their property until they are ready to build, the developer said.
After the 2019 growing season, Tandem Partners will use the lot for parking as the developers begin construction on the 1125 W. Van Buren St. property.
Even with the commitment of the developer, the second community garden plan must be approved by the city, Tamssot said.
Earlier this year, Tamssot worked with neighbors, developers, JC Licht True Value, the Mary Bartlett Park Advisory Council and Merit School of Music to bring the vision of a community garden on a vacant lot — with no irrigation system — to life.
Using kiddie pools, buckets and some rainwater, Tamssot created a 100-pod community garden at 37 S. Sangamon. In June, the group constructed a system to collect the distillate from the eight air conditioning systems on Merit’s roof.
The collection system runs from the roof, distributing the harvested water from the AC units to the daisy-chained GrowPods along the Sangamon lot.
Tamssot described the community garden as nomadic, and emphasized that the garden is really about cultivating community.
Beyond the flourishing garden, the community garden is “bringing people together” and cultivating relationships within the community,” Tamssot said. “It’s amazing what can be done with condensate, sun, soil and love.”
After the successful first season, Tamssot aims to scout other locations for the 2019 growing season where they can work with developers to host community gardens.
“The next step is looking to further refine the GrowPods, so we can get to a system adopted more widely that can impact more people,” he said.
“This is a proven concept that works and people are taking notice,” he said.
The property owner of the Sangamon lot did not return calls.
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