SOUTH SHORE — For more than a decade, the lot at 6700 S. Dorchester Ave. in South Shore has sat unused.
Nearby residents help maintain it by “putting a lot of energy into making sure it’s not a dump site,” next door neighbor Shelly Quiles said.
But in recent weeks, Quiles and five other neighbors have drafted plans to do more than just clean it up. They want to turn the vacant, city-owned lot into a market for microbusinesses in the neighborhood.
“We’re trying to focus on businesses that are being run out of people’s homes and helping them to expand their customer base,” Quiles said.
A pop-up fundraiser and networking event on the site will be held from noon–4 p.m. Saturday Lemonade will be sold for $2–$4, with all proceeds going to fund the project plans.
Business owners are encouraged to bring business cards and talk about how the market would be best run. Black-owned businesses based in South Shore, Woodlawn and Greater Grand Crossing are the project’s focus.
Organizers Shelly and Timothy Quiles, Jacqueline Thomas and Crystal Jackson live directly next to the property. Fellow organizers Saba McAfee Favors and Stephanie Alexis live elsewhere in South Shore.
The six organizers also want to hear from neighbors about other resources, like help in building a website, that The Lemonade Land could offer to businesses trying to “go to the next level.”
“We have a lot of things we have to put in place” before opening, Quiles said. “This is really starting from scratch. We didn’t have an investment; it was just us saying we want to do this.”
This weekend’s event is not the market itself; that’s tentatively scheduled to begin in mid-July and run through Labor Day. But Quiles said neighbors are welcome to bring products to sell Saturday.
“We’re not trying to stop anyone from moving forward with the vision,” she said. “We’re inviting anyone who is like, ‘I need customers, things have been slow.’ … But we’re also using this as a fundraiser day.”
The property has been vacant since at least 2007, when Quiles moved next to the site, she said.
By utilizing the empty space for local entrepreneurs, she and the other organizers hope to combat the “exploitation” of the mainstream business world and encourage South Shore residents to invest in the community.
“We’re really trying to create a community market where people have the option to say, ‘I’m going to put my money in the pocket of my neighbor,” Quiles said. “It’s so we’re not sinking everything into the Amazon stores or Wal-Mart … but really building an awareness and connection to the businesses in our neighborhood.”
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.