CHICAGO (CBS) — Residents on one Bronzeville block are welcoming the upgrade of a plot of land from ugly abandoned lot to beloved community garden.
And it is all made possible by a little-known government program that lets you buy unloved property at a huge discount. CBS 2’s Jim Williams showed us Wednesday morning how it is helping grow hope and love – along with fresh produce.READ MORE: Former Chicago Bear Dan Hampton Faces Driving While Intoxicated Charge After Recent In Northwest Indiana
Sythera Pride-Paulus and her husband, JP, were happily living in Chatham three years ago – when out of curiosity, they stopped by an open house in Bronzevlle..
“And the moment I walked into this fully gutted gray stone, I told my husband, ‘I believe this is our house,’ and he was like: ‘I thought we were just supposed to come for an open house. What you talking about?’” Pride-Paulus said.
Truth is they both loved the Bronzeville house. So they bought it. But they then wondered about the bot next door – 40 years vacant with a broken concrete foundation still there.
They envisioned grass for their daughters and a three-car garage, which would be a big improvement for the entire block.
“A vacant lot that had no use,” said Eleanor Gorski, executive director for the Cook County Land Bank Authority. “No one was paying taxes on, it and it totally was unimproved.”
The county Land Bank Authority had the lot. The government agency aims to make vacant properties viable and return them to tax rolls – thus enhancing the surrounding neighborhoods.
“We now have a lot that the community uses, and we’re having someone maintaining it,” Gorski said, “and it brings up the value of every home on the street.”READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Slight Warm Up On The Way
The Paulus Family bought the lot for $20,000 – much less than market value. Today, the garage is up, the sod is down, and they have plans for two enclosed areas.
“Collard greens, cucumbers, fresh basil, and cilantro – vegetables perhaps; strawberries,” Pride-Paulus said.
They will grow those fresh fruits and vegetables in the lot starting next year.
The first hint of inspiration came right after the Paulus family moved into the neighborhood. They saw a community garden across the street from their home and said, “Maybe we can do this too.”
Sythera Pride-Paulus and JP plan to share their bounty with neighbors, who they say have been so welcoming to the family.
“To give back,” Pride-Paulus said. “We feel that when you have so much, you shouldn’t just keep it all to yourself.”
And thus, what was once a vacant lot will soon to be a source of healthy foods.
“This has been a huge blessing for us,” added JP Paulus. “Our neighbors have shown us how be good neighbors and be part of a great community.”MORE NEWS: Police: CTA Bus Driver Stabbed In Hand After Confronting Man Who Pickpocketed Woman In Old Town