As Lynn mentions, a public meeting regarding the proposal to build an orchard on Logan Square will take place on Tuesday evening at Logan Square Kitchen. She also points out that DPD (or whoever they are now) says they have an open mind about the proposal.
Again, I welcome the idea of an orchard on a different site, in an area where a quiet garden would be a net benefit to the neighbors. I would even welcome a (temporary) vegetable or flower garden at this site, until the community has a clearer vision for this parcel. (A playlot? An outdoor flea market, for the yard-sale crowd taking over Logan? A graffiti gallery? Who knows?) However, creating an orchard here is a pretty permanent move, and its impact on the neighborhood for the next few decades should be very carefully considered — particularly the opportunity costs of fencing off a good chunk of public space within a growing retail area, where the neighbors (shops, mostly) would derive greater benefit from people than from trees.
I’ve been told that CROP is the only group that’s come forward with a promise to clean/maintain the site (over what time period, I don’t know). In the absence of an SSA or other funding mechanism, the Chamber is unable to step into that role should the site be developed into a public park or plaza. Yet CROP has yet to conclusively demonstrate that they have sufficient organizational capacity in spite of their brief history and narrow funding base. At the very least, as a neighbor I need assurances that CROP has the capacity to keep vagrants and vermin away from the site — and this video doesn’t exactly show off a well-tended garden. By that very low standard of care, the existing informal parking lot at least doesn’t damage the immediate neighborhood and provides a convenience to the neighboring shops. It also doesn’t present much of an opportunity cost, since it could be ripped up tomorrow.
As always I appreciate your comments. I hope you’ll be able to make it to the meeting on the 17th and I look forward to hearing your considerations for the site. However, I would like to point out something that seems misleading in this blog post. You seem to imply that the video by Nick Padiak shows a CROP site, which it doesn’t. It does show video of the Chicago Honey Co-op, where CROP is temporarily keeping their trees. I personally think the Honey Co-op is a wonderful organization but if you find their standard of care for their site poor, that’s a different matter.
If you’d like to get an impression of CROP’s stewardship of land, perhaps a more representative site is Ginkgo Organic Gardens at 4055 N Kenmore. Myself and Douglas Lynch are both on the steering committee there. I’ll be there tomorrow morning, in fact, if you’d like to come by.
Thanks; I’ll take a look at Ginkgo garden tomorrow. The Honey Co-op (and of course I use their honey!) is in a much less visible location than the Logan Square Plaza, so an informal look is appropriate there.
I’m puzzled by one line of reasoning pursued in CROP’s documentation: that Logan Square saw commercial fruit cultivation in 1880, and therefore is somehow magically appropriate for such land uses again in 2040. Well, some years later, a pool hall and car dealership occupied the site; it has an urban history, as well as a rural history, and this place has evolved to become (and is continuing to evolve towards) an urban place.
Part of my concern about an orchard, in particular, is that it’s a permanent use: unlike a park or a vegetable garden or even a storefront, it would prove difficult to reprogram as the neighborhood changes. And it’s changing to be more urban, not less. I (and many others) live here because its urban-ness is exceptional: probably 98% of Americans don’t have almond croissants and whiskey flights and handlebar tape available within a stone’s throw. Urban places thrive because they bring lots of people together; they have greater human diversity and less biodiversity. It would be unfortunate to have a good chunk of that place be locked up for fear of people damaging tree roots and branches. I know that the intent is ultimately to have a space more open to the public, and I’ll be curious to find out just how open it will be — could it, in 5-10 years, ultimately become a (perviously) paved plaza with a bosque of trees and space underneath for seats? (That’s kind of a harsh environment for most trees.) That sort of space might provide for more reprogramming flexibility down the road.
To give this a theoretical basis, Logan Square has its own own the urban-to-rural transect and the LS Plaza site sits near its urban apex, at around T5.5. (Compare that to the Honey Co-op or most of Philadelphia Orchards Project’s sites at T3, which is why “naturalistically disposed” landscaping works there.) Appropriate patterns have been developed for civic and public spaces and agriculture. Note that sites “at the intersection of important streets” — more public sites — get more formal, open, and hardscape.
It turns out that extensive public outreach and brainstorming was in fact done regarding this particular site, which was then ignored while secretively developing the most recent plans. From the Logan Square Open Space Plan, page 11:
“Two surveys were conducted in early 2003 to assess the public’s perception of two community sites suggested by the focus groups that could potentially be converted to open space use…
“In April, another survey was conducted over a three-day period at the Logan Square CTA station to determine suggested uses for a piece of vacant, public land at the southwest corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Logan Boulevard where the elevated line goes underground south of the station. The most common of more than 200 suggestions was its conversion to a park, although a concern over potential crime and vagrancy was expressed. Suggested uses to hinder such activity were to activate it with people-intensive uses, such as programming for teens, amenities for families, and space for an outdoor market.”