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Residents, city officials give problem liquor store the boot, encourage healthy foods in East Garfield Park

Local block club members, city officials and community organizers celebrated the closing of a troublesome liquor store and launched a healthy food campaign intended to bolster the diets and health of East Garfield Park residents. The actions were the result of a three-year grassroots effort to rid the community of a hangout for illicit activities and stimulate new and productive business on West Madison Street.

“It’s easy to feel disempowered and give up hope that things can get better. But the most important thing to do is organize—meet your neighbors, form a vision of what you want your neighborhood to look like, and then find people that support you,” stated Marissa Baker, resident and member of the Monroe & Fifth 2900 Block Club.

Responding to complaints and demands from neighbors and police, Ald. Bob Fioretti, the Dept. of Buildings and the Dept. of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection worked to document both the poor condition of the building and the problems with the way the business was operated. The business at 2901 W Madison was closed by the Dept. of Buildings and the circuit court because of its condition. Two community meetings were held with Business Affairs. In the end, the business owner surrendered his business licenses for 2901 W Madison rather than attempt to reopen. At the same time, the Dept. of Buildings continues to pursue a demolition order in circuit court as the building remains in serious disrepair.

While store closings…. are the method of last resort, or are a rare outcome, the overall goal is to improve the commercial corridor starting with neighborhood shopping outlets.  The ‘Healthy Corner Store Partnership’ is an outgrowth of the vision. The partnership, collaboration between organizations and block clubs in East Garfield Park and Humboldt Park, has gathered surveys, engaged store owners and developed marketing materials in an effort to improve the display and availability of quality foods supplied by corner stores.  Driven by community health statistics that show the strong connections between poor health and the lack of more nutritional goods, west-side organizations came together to create a local response to these disparities. 

The Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance is the East Garfield Park New Communities Program (NCP) lead agency.  NCP is a long-term initiative of Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Chicago to support comprehensive community development in Chicago neighborhoods.  The Department of Buildings supports the safety and quality of life for the residents and visitors of the City of Chicago through enforcement of the Chicago Building Code. In the past year, a small coalition of block clubs on Monroe, Wilcox and Adams have been collaborating to address crime, organize neighborhood clean-ups, install community gardens, and pressure absentee owners to secure their buildings. Monroe, Wilcox and Adams Block Club is a diverse mix of residents who represent a strong commitment to the neighborhood and civic involvement. 

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Posted in Housing