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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

Help Reimagine The Historic Sears Sunken Garden At A Community Design Workshop Series Launching Sunday

The new design of the Sears Sunken Garden will incorporate feedback from residents on how they want the garden to look.

The Sears, Roebuck and Co. sunken gardens in the North Lawndale neighborhood on March 10, 2021.
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NORTH LAWNDALE — The century-old Sears Sunken Garden is being redesigned by West Side neighborhood groups, and residents are invited to help imagine how the garden should look and feel at a series of community design workshops.

The collaborative design workshops will have three sessions hosted at the Sears Sunken Garden at 3330 W. Arthington St. Register for the sessions on Eventbrite:

  • 2 p.m. April 18
  • 11 a.m. April 24
  • 1 p.m. April 24

The redesign of the Sears Sunken Garden is led by the GROWWS Committee, a neighborhood group dedicated to urban agriculture and beautification that’s affiliated with the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council.

GROWWS previously held a series of virtual workshops over the winter to give residents a chance to hear about the history behind the Sears Sunken Garden, learn about landscape design practices and share their opinions what they want from the redesigned garden.

The onsite collaborative design workshops will bring residents on a tour through the historic garden to share their ideas for what the reimagined garden could be like. Residents will brainstorm the type of plants that may live in the garden, as well as color schemes and path designs.

Feedback from residents will be incorporated into the plans for the garden by landscape designers Roy Diblik and Piet Oudolf, who helped design the 2.5-acre Lurie Garden Downtown in Millennium Park. The GROWWS Committee will raise money to pay for the landscaping.

The designers will be “interpreting what people perceive they would like to feel within their community. So we’re actually interpreting emotions with plants,” Diblik said.

The garden is also meant to honor the complex industrial history of Chicago that heavily influenced North Lawndale.

Credit: BlueprintChicago.org
A postcard depicting the old Sears complex shows the Sunken Garden in the lower right corner.

Opened in 1907, the Sunken Garden at 899 S. Homan Ave. was built by Sears, Roebuck and Co. as leisure space for employees who worked on the sprawling 40-acre complex when the company was headquartered in Lawndale.

But Sears began pulling out of the West Side in the ’70s, first by relocating its corporate headquarters to the Sears Tower Downtown, then by closing its warehouses and distribution centers at the Lawndale campus in the ’80s.

When Sears left North Lawndale, thousands were left unemployed. As the area struggled economically, the beauty of the Sunken Garden also began to fade, organizers said.

“Let’s bring it back to its beautiful state … so it can be a place in the community that is looked upon as a tourist attraction,” said Reshorna Fitzpatrick, pastor of the historic Stone Temple church and a member of the GROWWS Committee.

“If you get community buy-in, then people become a part of it. They take care of it, they love it, they embrace it, they spend time there and they take ownership.”

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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