Columbia College Chicago did a very bad thing. Where once stood a magnificent garden at the corner of 8th and Wabash, now stands nothing.
And it's all the college's fault.
The story goes like this: When Columbia purchased the old Buddy Guy's Legends a few years ago and tore it down in order to build a brand new student center (Buddy moved a block south into nice new digs), suddenly they couldn't.
The student population that paid tuition started to diminish (and continues to do so), and the college found itself with far more property than they could use in the South Loop. I was nervous when they purchased the Johnson Publishing Company building on South Michigan Avenue--and wrote a column back then about how good they'd been about restoring, renovating, repurposing (and even building new) buildings in the neighborhood, and how I hoped they'd continue that magnificent record.
It didn't continue. The JPC is fallow and never used. And for sale.
But something wonderful happened in the meantime to the land upon which the student center was to be built. It was handed over to CCC book and paper making art students and a number of huge raised planters were placed on the empty lot filled with impressive plants that the students used for paper making. A water source was also implemented and everything was wonderful.
The concepts in the garden expanded, along with the plantings, under art professor Melissa Potter's direction, and they included everything from "war" to tea-making.
Anyone could walk right into this garden and feel refreshed and renewed. There was no fence. No barriers. What a respite. In fact, one of the planters was in the process of being dedicated and named for community activist Bob Wilson, who had recently passed away. The plants had been donated from another community garden at Polk and Dearborn a few weeks before--and planted by members of the South Loop Referral Group.
While Potter and the students knew from the start that their days were numbered--the college announced they would begin building the student center on the land in October--they were also assured that another spot would be given to them on campus to transfer their garden.
But a few weeks ago, in the middle of the growing season--without notice--the college pulled a Richie Daley/Meigs Field and, without notice, one morning began tearing out the planters and the plants. When Potter and the students found out hours later, they rushed over to save what they could, but.....
Unanswered questions abound: why weren't Potter and the students given notice and enough time to salvage their plants? Why did they do this dastardly deed in July if they weren't ready to break ground until October--the natural end of the growing season? Why was there such a level of disrespect for Potter, the students and the community?
Not to mention the level of disrespect for the plants....
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