Kenwood Gardens brings new life to Chicago's South Side

Chicago’s motto is "City in a Garden." 

But in large parts of the city, there’s very little green to go around — which is why South Side residents are welcoming the opening of Kenwood Gardens in the Grand Crossing neighborhood.

Theaster Gates is a Chicago artist who conceived and developed the project. 

"I think the first purpose is to create some beauty in a neighborhood that's not seen as much beauty as it deserves," said Gates. 

Three years ago, Gates had a dream about flowers and people, and created this oasis for neighbors in a neighborhood that is not always peaceful.

"Create a safe zone in a neighborhood where there are still bad things that happen," said Gates. 

The garden is built on 13 abandoned properties donated by the city of Chicago in the 6900 block of South Kenwood Avenue with $4 million provided by companies and foundations.

It is made up of hundreds of flowering perennials, native prairie plants and bushes and trees from all over the world.

It is meant to be a garden metaphor for Chicago.


"The idea for the entire garden is to create a community of plants," said landscape designer Chris Abraham. "Not just individuals, but how do these plants work together?"

It is a hit already with Monarch butterflies, and when completed, it will also be used as a gathering place for residents and artists.

They're calling it a Chicago Botanic Garden for the South Side.

"We brought it to the ‘hood,’ as I like to say," said Raji Bela, who helped build the garden. "And we need it, and I can't wait for this space to open up and help the community."

An edible garden is also under construction so that local residents can plant their tomatoes and veggies starting next summer.