L I L A C - Landscaping Initiative for the Lake Park Avenue Corridor

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since 1988
     planting pictures
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L.I.L.A.C. (Landscape Initiative Lake Park Area Initiative)
was an affiliate programmatic committee of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference

This page brought to you by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and HPKCC's website, www.hydepark.org. Join the Conference!

Conference Reporter history article from 1999: LILAC: Greening a Vital Corridor. Learn about, see new plans for the corridor. and the 2007 Phase of the Project.

LILAC formally closed its books in 2012. However, a new organization Hyde Park ACE was said to be incorporating to take over the duties of LILAC such as Metra Embankment especially by 47th Stret turnaround and other garden and open space areas in Hyde Park. And the Hyde Park Garden Fair continues to beautify.

Landscape came to life again 2005, 2007
In November, 2003, work began by Metra under an IllinoisFIRST state grant secured by Rep. Currie and Sen. Obama. Since $100,o00 is too small to rebuild walls, LILAC and a working-group stakeholders meeting agreed that in areas on the stretch of Lake Park south of 47th to south of 50th. The limestone wall will be replaced with a slope and planted with new trees and shrubs. Trees were being placed in December, 2003. Ground planting and shrubs will start in the spring, as will some work in the vicinity of the by-then completed Metra stations. The long-range plan and phasing, being worked out by the Departments of Planning and Transportation with Metra, will be settled also. Stay tuned--volunteers may be needed Spring, 2004 by LILAC. Note, some beautification supporters decry loss of the wall of rustic Joliet limestone. Limestone will be reused for the bus stops, according to Metra spokesman Dan Schnolis to the Herald. To article and pictures on the embankment project

Plans for Lake Park Avenue Corridor slowly progress but are far from written in stone, according to Maria Castaneda of CDOT who reported to the January, 2004 TIF Advisory Council. People want plantings that will last!! Minor improvements are planned for intersections, crosswalks, bulb outs and curb cuts. Much of this will wait evaluation of impact of the new BP Connect and McDonald's drive-through. The railroad embankment wall has been torn down 50th to 47th and the area awaits grading and landscaping this spring. More such work is planned in phases. Viaduct rehabilitation (the walls and columns, not the bridges) is envisioned also. Metra has committed $2 million, available in 2005 an 2006; request has been submitted (through Ald. Preckwinkle's Office?) for $2.9 from the city (CDOT-Mitigation?) Also, phase 2 is funded largely by the State (Rep. Currie), phase 3 may have contribution from the University, especially embankment beautification. The University has agreed to maintain replanted embankments. All this is as of fall, 2006. Work should begin by the end of the year, although preliminary viaduct work--spraying of "unhistoric" murals and graffitied areas--started in September and resulted in destruction of historic murals, which Ald. Preckwinkle is committed to having restored by the group that had them made.

The Beauty created by L.I.L.A.C. was visible from the late 1980s to the late 1990s—from the blooming of early Spring bulbs,  and a Summer of colorful shrubs and flowers, through the Fall mum display—the Metra embankment from 47th - 57th streets on Lake Park Avenue and in the Lake Park Avenue divide, and still evident north of the Hyde Park Historical Society at 5529 S. Lake Park (especially the red and deep green shrubs) and various other points, including near 47th (where the wide lawn was once landscaped by L.I.L.A.C. The effort did flag, but it was the long wait for the Metra station reconstruction to start, then to ever get finished that put the program in temporary mothballs despite a 1999 UC Neighborhood Beautification grant that could not be used immediately, but was later with an additional $1,000. Now, in 2003, the excitement and the planning are back for 2004. L.I.L.A.C., with a coalition lead by SECC, working with the Chicago Departments of Planning and Development and Transportation on a redesign and landscaping of major sections of the embankment. There is already a state grant to rebuild the middle stretch retaining walls, under Aldermen Hairston and Preckwinkle and work at the 53rd and 55th Street viaducts is supposed to start this fall. However, who knows how soon the station work will be finished. There are no current outstanding grants to L.I.L.A.C.

The L.I.L.A.C. gardens have always been maintained by volunteers.  To learn more particulars or participate in L.I.L.A.C contact Richard Pardo at 773 667-5324. (Also leading project in recent years has been Mark Johnson.)


Since it was elevated and multi-tracked the Metra Electric and South Shore commuter railway service and the now-Canadian National right of way has formed an imposing East / West divide through the more eastern section of the Hyde Park - Kenwood community. While providing an important transportation service it also creates a disruptive, neglected, and deteriorated physical presence that is a bane of hopes for retail area and other upgrade. For years LILAC has been turning undeveloped, economically unproductive, and unattractive land into a green community asset. In fact, the project started as an effort to 1) provide a green alternative to Metra's pesticizing trees and brush, and 2) as a hoist to get the deteriorating and dangerous retaining walls fixed. This was about the same time in the 1980's when neighbors were also fighting to keep our stations, especially the Kenwood Station at 47th. All these aims meshed.


To create a community asset; a pleasant green path which turns a drive or a walk down Lake Park Avenue into a positive experience worth noting and remembering. By so doing we will enhance Hyde Park and Kenwood as a place to live.


LILAC, founded in 1987, developed a long range plan which divides the greening project into smaller subsets of activity.

Cooperation & Participation:

Greening this 10 city block long area is a major undertaking. Its revival will continue, as it originally did, to require the efforts and enthusiastic support of many people, the Alderman, METRA railway, neighborhood organizations, and diverse funding sources. If you are interested in joining our Landscaping Initiative for the Lake Park Avenue Corridor effort to help beautify the Hyde Park neighborhood, please contact Richard Pardo (to reconfirm if this e-mail is right.)


View L.I.L.A.C. Activities

January Christmas tree shredding  1995

        LILAC volunteers planting Metra embankement, late 80s-90s. lilac3.gif (327496 bytes)
Lake Park Avenue Divider:
Daffodils courtesy of
                      HPKCC's Garden Fair Committee


    LILAC volunteers with plantings late 80s-90s. wpe36A.jpg (126513 bytes)

L.I.L.A.C. Plantings were at

       57th Street cluster:

       53rd / 55th Street cluster
daffodils, scilla roses, spirea, sumac, etc.

  LILAC plantings-lilacx.gif (303000 bytes)     
        47th Street Cluster:




Major Contributors

Chicago Community Trust Urbs in Horto Fund + H.P. Community funds

City of Chicago

Hyde Park Bank and Trust Co.

Hyde Park Historical Society

Hyde Park  - Kenwood Community Conference Garden Fair Committee

Hyde Park Historical Society

LILAC Membership

Open Lands Program NeighborWoods Project

University of Chicago/South East Chicago Commission Neighborhood Enhancement Grants



Location Plantings Date Award Sponsor

Embankment Lake Park Av. between 53-55 Streets.

Test planting selections to be made  in consultation w/UofC landscape architect &  Ted Wolff.
Execution date to be determined
Announced 1999. Award date TBD. U of C Neighborhood Enhancement Grants


Location Plantings Date Cost Sponsor

Replanted north 1/2 block at Historical Society 56th & Lake Park
  5/94, 6/95

Chicago Community Trust Urbs in Horto Fund + H.P. Community funds
South for 1/2 block by Historical Society, 56th & Lake Park 1200 trees, shrubs, & perennials installed in three phases
5/92, &

Chicago Community Trust Urbs in
Horto Fund + H.P. Community funds
53rd & 55th
1500 daffodils and scilla
Hyde Park  - Kenwood Community Conference Garden Fair Committee
53rd & Lake Park
100 plants
Lilac Membership
55th & Lake Park   4/90 $900 H.P. Historical Society & LILAC
47th & 55th Streets 20 trees 11/89  
City of Chicago
53rd & Lake Park 300 Daffodils 10/89  
Hyde Park  - Kenwood Community Conference Garden Fair Committee
53rd & :Lake Park 150 plants 4/21/89 $2,100 Hyde Park Bank and Trust Co.
47th & Lake Park 600 Daffodils 10/88 $250
Hyde Park  - Kenwood Community Conference Garden Fair Committee
47th & Lake Park 60 trees & bushes 5/21/88 $2,000
Open Lands Program NeighborWoods Project & LILAC matching funds

     LILAC: Greening a Vital Corridor

An HPKCC Anniversary Retrospective, this is also a "how to organize" piece.

[by Gary Ossewaarde]

From the May-June 1999 Conference Reporter (This issue also announced the UC Neighborhood Enhancement Grant for LILAC in the amount of $8,000. This could not be used because of impending station rehabilitation, but, latest heard, can be reinstated when the time for planting comes.)

LILAC (Landscaping Initiative for the Lake Park Avenue Corridor) was founded in the summer of 1987 by Richard C. Pardo and concerned residents who acted to halt METRA's regular killing and clear-cutting vegetation on its embankments. Seeking a long-term, positive solution, they focused on embankment stretches that could be successfully and sensibly planted and maintained.

Pardo and his volunteers recruited allies who "adopted" sections, including Kenwood Commuters, who had recently saved their 47th St. station, and the Hyde Park Historical Society headquartered in the old cable louse on the embankment in the 5500 block.

LILAC persuaded METRA to provide access, cleanup, water service, and labor under a beautification contract. LILAC then procured trees, plants, flowers, and bulbs from sources as varied as the city and the HPKCC Garden Fair Committee and recruited and organized both continual upkeep teams and community wide project days.

Affiliated as a Conference committee since November, 1987, LILAC obtained major grants from the Open Lands NeighborWoods Program an the Chicago Community Trust Urbs in Horto program. The Hyde Park Bank and many other organizations and individuals have also given generously. LILAC utilized political muscle and community alliances to persuade METRA to both embrace LILAC's beautification approach and to repair sections of crumbling, hazardous retaining walls. The greening of embankments south of 47th St., north of 53rd St., and by the Historical Society were crowning achievements.

Today, LILAC is working with others to maximize beautification and infrastructure upgrade around METRA's proposed renovated stations nd to ensure that stations, right of ways, and embankment walls are well maintained. The group also seeks means and volunteers to replant and tend METRA and adjoining Canadian National Railway embankments from north of 47th St. to south of 59th. It's also concerned with planning for Lake Park Ave. streetscaping. The recent beautification grant will advance these goals.

Get involved in the upgrade of this key corridor which, as Richard Pardo said, "cuts through the heart of the community and serves as a major focus of life, both by services provided and its imposing physical presence.? Call Richard at 773/667-5324 to volunteer.

Remnants as they look in 2003 near the Hyde Park Historical Society (Old Cable Car Warming House), 5529 S. Lake Park.

LILAC plantings as in 2003- long overgrown but still charming LILAC plantings as in 2003- long overgrown but still charming
LILAC plantings as in 2003- long overgrown but still charming