Skil parcel eyed for community garden


A temporary community garden with up to 2,000 planting beds is being considered for the former Skil Power Tools site, 4300 W. Peterson Ave.

Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) is seeking to contact the owner of the property about a possible garden for the vacant 193,000-square-foot parcel, but no decision has been made, Laurino spokesman Manuel Galvan said. Plans would be made to remove the garden if the site becomes ready for redevelopment, Galvan said.

In the past 12 years a 35-home subdivision and a senior housing complex have been proposed for the site, which once housed the headquarters of Walgreen Company.

In 2004 the City Council approved a planned development ordinance which restricts new construction on the property to a 35 single-family home subdivision. The developer for the project, the Rezmar Corporation, dropped its plans due to financial difficulties, and in 2008 Tony Rezko, a principal of Rezmar, began serving a prison sentence after he was found guilty in a political fund-raising scandal.

In 2009 a development group associated with Inland Bank and Trust Holdings purchased the site for about $3.4 million.

Sauganash Chamber of Commerce member Jenn Hulbert, a marketing specialist for Whole Foods, said that the Peterson Garden Project, which manages seven gardens in Chicago and which has 520 volunteers, has expressed interest in the site. Whole Foods has held fund-raisers for the group, which works to teach people how to grow food.

Hulbert said that the Peterson Garden Project models itself after the installation of “victory gardens” during World War II, when people around the country planted gardens in order to reduce the pressure on the public food supply. Participants would only be allowed to grow food in the gardens on the Skil site, she said.

Tentative plans call for tarpaulins to be placed on the ground at the site and for the gardens to be grown in above-ground planting beds, which residents would be able to rent, Galvan said.

Peterson Garden Project president LaManda Joy said that several area organizations have expressed willingness to help with the garden and that the proximity of the site to the Sauganash Trail would make the garden appealing to bicyclists. “I’ve had my eye on that space for a long, long time,” she said. “It’s a pretty large site. I’m very excited.”

One of the sites that the Peterson Garden Project oversees is the Global Garden, 3000 W. Lawrence Ave., which has about 140 plots. The garden, which is adjacent to an urban training farm, opened last spring.

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