A West Side community plaza will have a cafe, flower shop, and mini-museum, all housed in redeveloped shipping containers

NORTH LAWNDALE РA once vacant lot will soon become a community plaza that will host events, a mini-museum, florist and caf̩.

Love Blooms Here Plaza at Central Park Avenue and Douglas Boulevard is being developed as a low cost but high impact gathering place for residents of Lawndale. Members of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council are creating attractions on the plaza that will be housed in redeveloped 20-foot shipping containers.

Organizers are raising $ 25,000 with a GoFundMe to set up the plaza and customize the shipping containers for the florist and cafe.

“So many people with their different ideas and missions and the spirit of community, we really created love. That’s kind of the reason we say love blossoms here, right here, everywhere. where we put our shovel, ”said Annamaria Leon, co-chair of the GROWWS committee which is a partner in the project.

The land is owned by Stone Temple Baptist Missionary Church, which is across the plaza at 3622 W. Douglas Blvd. The partnership with the church makes it easier to manage several projects at very low cost, as visitors can access basic amenities like the bathrooms at the Stone Temple.

The Lawndale Pop-Up Spot, a community mini-museum formerly based at Spaulding Memorial Garden, is currently located in the plaza. The museum was designed to be mobile so that the items on display in the shipping box can easily be moved to help activate new locations when needed.

Chelsea Ridley, Annamaria Leon and Jonathan Kelley in front of the Lawndale pop-up spot at Love Blooms Here Plaza.

“It was about time for us to try and go pop-up somewhere else,” said Chelsea Ridley, co-founder of the Lawndale Pop-Up Spot and project manager for Open Books. “So it’s really exciting for us to really test our model to see what we could do, where we can go.”

The mini-museum reopens its “Lawndale: A Living History” exhibit at the new location on April 10. The exhibition will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays until May 10. This is a series of portraits and a storytelling project that honors the wisdom of the Elders. who have lived in North Lawndale for decades.

A month-long spring mobility justice exhibit will explore how transportation and cycling intersect with racial equity, said co-founder Jonathan Kelley.

In the summer, the Lawndale Pop-Up Spot will host a series of wellness events focused on healthy living.

“We will have different wellness type events where we will have social workers, mental health professionals who will come to discuss. We’ll have trauma therapists, we’ll have yoga, we’ll have nutrition workshops, ”Ridley said.

Another shipping box will be a flower shop selling freshly cut bouquets run by Leon’s social enterprise, Homan Grown. The flowers will be grown at a flower farm next to the plaza and at the Homan Grown Nursery at 3844 W. 16th St.

A third shipping box will be personalized into a small cafe with an outdoor seating area in the plaza.

“There is something about having something warm in your hand, walking down the street. It makes you feel like you are part of something. Like taking care of you, ”Leon said.

The plaza sits along the Douglas Boulevard Greenway, a few blocks from several schools, including the Herzl School of Excellence and the Lawndale Community Academy, and important churches like St. Agatha’s Parish and the Stone Temple. . The beer garden will provide students, parishioners and local families with a “place to walk, a reason to stay, a reason to hang out and spend time,” Ridley said.

The group is actively seeking a local entrepreneur or a roaster of color to join the place as a partner to manage the coffee.

Organizers expect the square to be finished by the summer.

“Part of what Love Blooms Here is is that our community is taken care of. They feel they matter. It is important that we have a museum that talks about it. It is important that we can grow flowers by the community for the community. It is important that they can pick up their own cup of coffee in their own neighborhood.

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America Corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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