Chicago nonprofit Emerald South beautifying vacant land with 'Lots of Compassion'

ByTracy Butler and Blanca Rios WLS logo
Wednesday, June 28, 2023
Chicago group helping beautify blighted land with 'Lots of Compassion'
The Chicago nonprofit Emerald South partnered with Mrs. Meyers Clean Day to transform vacant land in Woodlawn into the first "Lot of Compassion."

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Vacant lots are scattered all over the city. More than eyesore, studies link them to increased violence.

In the heart of Woodlawn sit several blocks of vacant lots. Some side-by-side.

The Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative is trying to transform that empty land through its Terra Firma initiative.

The group focuses on the Mid-South Side of the city, starting from Bronzeville down to South Chicago.

Ghian Foreman is the President & CEO, Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative

"In the region, there's over 230 acres of vacant land," said Foreman. "That's the same size as Disney Land."

According to Foreman, the nonprofit has already worked on about 67 acres of lots.

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Mrs. Meyers Clean Day recently partnered with Emerald South at a lot near 63rd and Kenwood for the soap company's first ever "Lot of Compassion."

"It's a play on words - the lots," explained Foreman. "Action was the difference. A lot of people care about the issue but to actually come out and do something about it - that's compassion."

And that action and compassion is seen throughout the garden.

"We had an artist Brandon Breaux, who painted the murals," said Foreman. "These are not famous people we see on television but these are actually community residents. And then there's this infinity symbol that kind of goes around the mounds and it's a color gradient and it change colors."

A 2018 study out of Philadelphia found transformed lots helped reduce gun violence by 29% And they improved mental health by 69 percent. Top that with the environmental benefits.

"These are some of the same communities that are really impacted by flooding. And if I ask community members 'do you care about global warming?' No, they have other priorities but if I ask them "does your basement flood?' And they say 'of course my basement floods.' "So when you do the plantings it helps to absorb some of the water."

Gardens and flowers attract pollinators. This Lot of Compassion and future Mrs. Meyers Clean Day lots will have a special and unique flower.

"Mrs. Meyers specifically worked with a botanist and created this compassion flower. "It's a pansy, it's purple and yellow and just a really pretty flower.

A pretty flower in a lush and a beautifully re-imagined space that the community will benefit from the most.

"Can you just think if this was a vacant lot with no grass growing and cars parked and trash, what it means for the neighbors to now look out their windows or someone to walk their dog by here every day," said Foreman.

Mrs. Meyers has a new compassion flower inspired product line. $1 of every Compassion Flower product sold on their website will go to the Lots of Compassion Program.