Vacant Garfield Park lot transformed into temporary outdoor roller rink to deter unwelcomed activity

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A vacant West Side lot has been transformed into a place for the city's youth to have fun.

The lot at the intersection of North Pulaski Road and West Madison Street in Garfield Park has been known to host unwanted activity. That is, until the Garfield Park Community Plaza repurposed the space into a temporary outdoor roller rink.

"It feels like you're riding a skateboard but with shoes on, with skates on" said Kingston Allen.

Amid some concern about unwelcome activity returning, months of community input lead to the design that opened Friday.

"By being a rink, which harkens back to longtime residents' memories of doing all sorts of positive activities along Madison Avenue," said T.J. Crawford, director of the Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative.

Fun and safety is the aim, and most importantly, investing in the next generation.

RELATED: North Lawndale peace walk aims to break cycle of violence after 2 mass shootings minutes apart

"To change their hearts and their minds, so that they believe and find value in themselves, that others care about them. They start to think differently about who they are," Crawford added,

The plaza was the destination for a special field trip for some of the students at Holy Family School.

"Being able to be outside and be out with other people, that's just a blessing for these youth out here," said Holy Family School teacher, Dwight Hunter.

Among the students, 10-year-old Demarion Dunning surprised his classmates and his teachers with his skills.

"I told my grandma before go, if you get a call about me breaking my ankle, it's because I'm showing off," Dunning said.

RELATED: AG Merrick Garland meets with top law enforcement officials in Chicago with launch of 'strike force'

The plaza will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, with movies on Friday evening the rest of the summer.

Security and Chicago police officers will also be keeping watch to make sure this newly reclaimed space remains a safe place for families.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.