West Garfield Park community plaza, roller rink groundbreaking announced by Mayor Lightfoot

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CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other Chicago leaders attended a groundbreaking for a community plaza and roller rink in West Garfield Park Saturday morning.

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, Alderman Jason Ervin of the 28th Ward, members of city departments and agencies and members of the Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative joined Lightfoot at the now-vacant lot about 10:15 a.m.

The plaza represents the city's first major infrastructure investment under the Neighborhood Activation Initiative Chicago.

Neighborhood Activation is a violence prevention and community investment initiative that combines community direction and aspirations and city services and assets to implement programs, social services and changes to communities at a hyperlocal block level, the mayor's office said.

"By making investments at the block level in communities that are facing high levels of violence, we are able to give our most vulnerable residents the resources they need to stay engaged and stay safe. Only by driving resources where they are needed most, with input from community members, can we truly eliminate the scourge of violence from our city," Lightfoot said.

According to statistics, West Garfield Park ranks seven out of the top 15 neighborhoods experiencing gun violence, and from Jan. 1 to May 31, 2021, West Garfield Park had the highest rate of fatal and non-fatal shootings relative to the population of all community areas in the city, the mayor's office said.

Additionally, the community is in the top five when it comes to neighborhoods experiencing narcotics sales and opioid addiction, according to city officials.

Over the last nine months, the mayor's office has partnered with several Chicago organizations, including renowned architecture and urban design firm Studio Gang and the Goldin Institute, a nonprofit organization that supports community-driven social change.

Both Studio Gang and the Goldin Institute donated their services to design and conduct a community engagement process in West Garfield Park, resulting in proposals for community-driven neighborhood changes.

"We are proud to break ground on the Garfield Park Community Plaza and Outdoor Roller Rink, which is a direct result of the community engagement sessions hosted by GPWC," said TJ Crawford, director of the Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative. "Over and over, residents shared fond memories of roller skating as children on Madison, and how much that was part of the community's history and what it represented as an indicator of the community culture. We're excited about the Community Plaza and what it represents, and we are determined to ensure that this is just the first step of many."

The community plaza and roller rink were proposed by community members as a way to create safe community spaces and youth programming opportunities for residents. In the short-term, the city's goal is to use the vacant lot at 4008 W. Madison St. this July with a temporary outdoor roller rink and multi-purpose space, to be available to the public all summer. The long-term goal is to have permanent lighting, furniture, a stage and outdoor activity space, when it reopens in June 2022.

"The Community Plaza is something that is absolutely needed in West Garfield," Ervin said. "It will bring more foot traffic to this street, help the businesses in the area, and create a safe space for families and children."

Other resources will also be provided to Garfield Park residents as part of the plan, the city said.