Our mission: The Garfield Park Community Council is a community-building organization made up of dedicated residents and allies working together to develop leaders and create opportunities and programs that build a vital Garfield Park community.
Our history: Spun off by the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance in 2012, the GPCC was created in 2005 by LISC Chicago and the Alliance as a result of a Quality of Life Plan for East Garfield Park designed by more than 400 community residents and stakeholders. This plan evolved into a working blueprint for community renewal with active resident committees focusing on four major areas: housing, business development, wellness, and public safety.
Since that time, the GPCC has developed and implemented more than 40 local projects with at least 30 partner organizations and facilitated more than $8 million in community investment, all tied to the original comprehensive approach to improving the quality of life for neighborhood residents. Today, the GPCC is a leader in community development on the west side and acts as a facilitator between residents and various public and private institutions, including law enforcement, private developers, city officials, and funders.
ABOUT GARFIELD PARK
Garfield Park, originally called Central Park along with its centerpiece park and lagoon, was largely settled by Irish and German railroad workers who worked for the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad. In 1881, the Jens Jensen-designed park and surrounding neighborhood was renamed in honor of President James A. Garfield, who had recently been assassinated. The landmark Garfield Park Conservatory, also designed by Jensen, was completed in 1907 and the construction of the Lake Street el in the early 1900s also brought new commercial development to the neighborhood. By 1930, the population was more than 63,000. But the Depression and World War II took a toll on the community. By 1947, the area was so needy that the Daughters of Charity opened Marillac House to serve the poor, an institution still serving the community today.
The construction of the Eisenhower Expressway in the late 1950s displaced residents from the southern end of the community. At the same time, African Americans who were being crowded out of the South and Near West sides of the city began renting or buying housing in Garfield Park. By 1960, three low-income housing developments, Harrison Courts, Maplewood Courts and Rockwell Gardens, had opened in the community. In 1966, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. came to town, leading to resident-organized efforts to improve the community. A group calling itself the East Garfield Park Union to End Slums led rent strikes and picketed irresponsible landlords. Another group called the East Garfield Park Cooperative pushed for grocery stores and better housing. A coalition of clergy and residents successfully fought off efforts to build more public housing in the neighborhood. But any gains ended on April 4, 1968 with the assassination of Dr. King. Riots broke out all along Madison Street and by the time it was over, 210 buildings had been burned to the ground or so badly damaged they had to be demolished. Business owners and residents fled from the neighborhood. According to the 2010 census, about 36,000 people currently live in Garfield Park, about one-third the number who had called the community home at its peak in 1950.
Today Garfield Park is a neighborhood poised for change and ready to celebrate its considerable assets – accessible and multiple transportation options, proximity to Chicago’s Loop, high quality housing stock, and strong neighborhood educational and community institutions.
As a diverse community of stakeholders, we envision that East and West Garfield Park will become an attractive, healthy, vibrant, family-friendly community whose residents are empowered and fully engaged in its sustainability.