Chicago residents have the opportunity to purchase vacant plots of land for just $1 through the next round of the Large Lots program, one of the recommendations in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Five-Year Housing Plan.
Chicago will direct $1.3 billion in public spending from 2014—2018 to create, improve and preserve more than 41,000 units of housing citywide, according to the City of Chicago’s website.
“The goal of the Large Lots program is to put underutilized, city-owned land back into the hands of the private sector for productive purposes, such as side yards, gardens and passive open spaces or even new housing,” said Peter Strazzabosco, deputy commissioner for the Department of Planning and Development.
Sonya Eldridge, program director for the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, said the process takes about nine months to a year to complete. Currently, applicants are submitting their economic disclosure statements.
Before working for the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, Eldridge worked in Hyde Park for the South East Chicago Commission. The Commission at the time was involved in a planning process called the Green Healthy Neighborhood Plan, incorporating mostly South Side neighborhoods, such as Back of the Yards and Englewood.
“This Large Lots program came out of a planning session where folks from Englewood were asking, ‘What can we do about all these vacant lots?’” Eldridge said. “’How can we repurpose them?’ And that is how this program was born.”
Applications are available online at LargeLots.org, and prospective buyers can find the lot that they would like to buy and apply online. The $1 asking price for the land is eye catching, but in order to successfully complete the application process there are a few stipulations, Strazzabosco said.
“You have to be a property owner on the block to be eligible to purchase a lot. This program is designed to [benefit] the people who live in the areas where these lots are located,” Strazzabosco said. “It’s not for speculators, it’s not for people out of town. It’s for people who live and own property where these lots are located.”
William Hill, owner and operator of William Hill Gallery, 6442 S. Dorchester Ave., has benefited from the Large Lots program. He said the application process was simple and step-by-step, so he was very comfortable with it.
“I had cultivated [the land] before it was for sale. So, for maybe 7 — 10 years, I was taking care of the land next to my home,” Hill said. “It’s [now] a sculpture garden.”
Large Lots’ website also offers additional assistance and guidance to future land owners from ambassador organizations located in different neighborhoods around the city.
“We have had some pretty great successes here [in Back of the Yards],” Eldridge said. “The first round we sold about 200 lots. The second round we are hoping for something close to that. ”