CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s a neighborhood nuisance – a stretch of vacant lots at least partially owned by the City of Chicago.
Not only did the city fail to clean the lots up despite repeated complaints, over the years, but they initially wouldn’t tell CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas who owns the properties.
Trash, broken glass, and barbed wire are on the ground at 78th Street and Woodlawn Avenue in the Avalon Park neighborhood.
“Any kid could get through there,” Avalon Park resident Linda Hudson told McNicholas recently.
The vacant lots racked up more than 40 complaints since 2018 – 311 requests about weeds, abandoned vehicles, and other problems. On two of the lots, a developer that still owns some of the vacant land built concrete foundations, but no homes.
“It’s a danger for kids wanting to climb over and you never know who could fall and hurt themselves,” neighbor Roy Robinson said.
So we took those concerns to the city for our first story on this subject last week.
We asked the city, who owns these lots? At first, a city spokeswoman said she didn’t know and she referred us to the county.
We dug into the records and found the owner of much of the vacant land is the City of Chicago.
“That’s crazy, because I feel like something should be there,” said Angel Sparkman.
“So the City of Chicago is totally disrespecting this neighborhood,” Hudson said.
This week, the city admitted they own at least part of a lot at the corner, which is full of debris and trailers from an old moving company. They say they plan to clean it up, but they have work to do with the Department of Law first to see what can be done.
Meanwhile, on the privately-owned lots next door, contractors for the city tear away at the foundations, trees, and weeds.
“Thank you to CBS and Tim McNicholas,” Hudson said.
“Wonderful, because I feel like they should put more property there,” Sparkman said.
Last winter, the CBS 2 Morning Insiders found examples all over Chicago of city-owned lots left in shambles. The city cleaned up one lot at 71st Street and Champlain Avenue after neighbors complained to CBS 2.
“They were not following their own rules,” neighbor Clifola Coleman said at the time.
Back on Woodlawn Avenue, neighbors hope for a similar result. There’s still a lot of work to do on the block, but people in Avalon Park say what’s happened is a start.
Private owners can face hefty fines for leaving lots like that. Records show the city did use fines and other legal actions to try to crack down on previous owners on Woodlawn Avenue.
But even after the city took over the properties, they stayed in poor shape for years.