Building 21st Century Green Centers

Community Collaboration Brings Pre-Olympic Environment to Chicago’s West Side

(Chicago,IL). On Friday, June 5, 2009, 6th and 7th grade students from Thomas Chalmers Specialty School in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood will join volunteers from Baxter International, Inc. and the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) staff to plant a rain garden where, up until last week, a slab of asphalt once smothered the ground. CNT and Baxter have partnered to create an 1800-square foot rain garden, which the students will help plant with 500 native plants like Blue Wild Indigo, Black-Eyed Susan and Wild Strawberries. (Event details below).

The rain garden at Chalmers School is a part of the Forward Chicago program, launched to foster greening activities in neighborhoods surrounding the city’s proposed Olympics and Paralympics venues. Chalmers School sits in the West Side Chicago neighborhood of North Lawndale, across from Douglas Park, a proposed cycling venue for the 2016 Olympics.

“These projects will create lasting, real environmental benefits in neighborhoods near to proposed Olympic sites,” said Kathryn Tholin, CNT’s CEO. “We are pleased to be partnering with Baxter and Chalmers School to increase neighborhood open space and contribute to a healthy environment for students and the community.”

In addition to its location in a designated 21st Century Green Center of Chicago’s Olympic bid, Chicago Public Schools had reported that Chalmers’ parking lot and playground were plagued with drainage problems. This rain garden, like a recent CNT project at St. Margaret Mary Church, will improve drainage at the school by replacing impervious asphalt with a native plant rain garden that will help to absorb and filter stormwater runoff.

“This garden demonstrates the tremendous opportunity to capture rain drops where they fall, expanding the City’s and Chicago Public Schools’ commitment to utilizing green infrastructure both for stormwater management and its community and educational benefits”, said Steve Wise, CNT’s Natural Resources Program Director. “Schools around Chicago are unpaving the way to a healthier city. Re-establishing natural planted areas creates a learning landscape for students and, by keeping rain water flowing into the ground on site, takes pressure off of the sewer network to help prevent local flooding and combined sewer overflows.”

The Chalmers School rain garden is the most recent in a series of school-based green infrastructure projects for CNT, initiating projects that re-open urban spaces by removing concrete to restoring functioning landscapes and clean water in the city, the region and beyond. See pictures from the recent removal of the asphalt at CNT’s Flickr page.

The Prince Charitable Trusts also provided funding support for this project.

Event Details

Where: Thomas Chalmers Specialty School

2745 W. Roosevelt Rd.
Chicago, IL 60608

When: Planting will take place 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM and 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM

About Forward Chicago

Launched by The Climate Group to engage Chicago’s leading businesses in public-private partnerships to implement selected climate initiatives. Participating companies work with Forward Chicago partners to sponsor initiatives within the newly-designated 21st Century Green Centers, the areas immediately surrounding the city’s proposed Olympic and Paralympic venues. These activities will help mitigate climate change while providing residents and businesses with tangible adaptation measures. Moving forward, the Green Centers will serve as hubs for low-carbon economic growth and neighborhood development.

About CNT

Since 1978, CNT has been a leader in promoting urban sustainability – the more effective use of existing resources and community assets to improve the health of natural systems and the wealth of people, today and in the future. CNT’s Natural Resources program focuses on Green Infrastructure; a stormwater management approach that saves money, supports sustainability, and more efficiently uses limited financial and natural resources. By capturing raindrops where they fall, Green Infrastructure utilizes the absorbing and filtering abilities of plants, trees and soil to protect water quality, reduce polluted runoff, and recharge groundwater supplies while reconnecting people with their local environment. CNT is one of eight nonprofits selected from around the world to receive a 2009 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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One Response to “Building 21st Century Green Centers”

  1. One More Rain Garden on its Way to Growing: A Day in the Planting of a Garden : Center for Neighborhood Technology Says:

    [...] thick patch of mulch—ready and waiting for planting. On this Friday morning in June, thirty-five 6th and 7th grade students joined Baxter International and CNT staff to plant the recreated space with 500 native plants. For a few students, this was even their very [...]