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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

El Paseo Community Garden In Pilsen Wins MacArthur Foundation Creative Placemaking Award

The community garden sprung up atop reclaimed industrial land in Pilsen.

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PILSEN — A community garden that sprung up atop reclaimed industrial land in Pilsen was honored this month by the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards.

El Paseo Community Gardens on Sangamon between Cullerton and 21st streets won the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Creative Placemaking Award.

The Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards is run by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago. The awards gala, scheduled for earlier this month, was moved online because of the coronavirus pandemic. Block Club is highlighting some of the winners and publishing the award videos that were to be played at the ceremony.

El Paseo Community Garden was honored as “a space that celebrates the diversity, history and culture that is the strength of the community and that links the past to the future.”

The award notes that the land now housing the garden was once just a shortcut for neighborhood kids cutting through the former industrial site. In 2009, a sidewalk was installed as part of a neighboring affordable housing development.

Local residents Paula and Antonio Acevedo and community partners began building raised beds to avoid the contamination and lobbied the federal government for help. That paid off with the Environmental Protection Agency cleaning up the soil in 2013.

“With clean soil, the Acevedos and their neighbors went into high gear,” according to the citation associated with the award. “Together they transformed the small garden into an abundant planting and gathering space for the neighborhood. Not only does the land boast vegetable and flower gardens, but there are also now a butterfly garden, native prairie plantings and a permaculture site with edible varieties, from peaches to grapes, 40 species of flowering plants, a wetland and an herb spiral.”

The site now also hosts garden days for kids, yoga, meditation, gardening workshops and an outdoor classroom.

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