Urban Juncture for Boxville
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Creative Placemaking Award (2019)
300 East 51st Street Chicago, IL 60653-2620
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For many, the trash-strewn lots east of the 51st Street Green Line station were just another place to pass by – a minor illustration of a larger problem that plagues many communities in Chicago’s South Side – scarcity – a lack of fresh food, jobs, public space and investment. But where others saw blight, Bernard Loyd, president of Urban Juncture, a community development group, saw opportunity. Thinking about the lack of resources, jobs and goods, while also keeping in mind the asset of land near public transportation, Loyd convened a group of neighborhood residents to determine how best to reverse the cycle of loss. They began small – with the idea for an accessible community bicycle shop. However, with little initial capital, the project struggled. In order to save the initiative, the team needed to get creative. And creative they were. To keep costs low and design innovative, Urban Juncture used refurbished shipping containers to house the first venture – a bicycle shop. Its success inspired the community’s young entrepreneurs who over the next three years worked to bring new ideas and shipping containers to the site. Today, Boxville is a bustling spring-summer-fall market anchored by thirteen 20-foot brightly colored shipping containers and provides an accessible platform for more than 100 local entrepreneurs to build and develop their enterprises. Local retailers offer a variety of products, ranging from everyday necessities, such as fresh produce, to one-of-a-kind items, such as handmade beauty products and vintage clothing. Although the market attracts many visitors, Boxville has become the neighborhood’s common square, where people of all ages come to participate in activities that range from block parties, dance performances, yoga sessions, live concerts and community meetings. The market and common square bring together retail, entrepreneurship and culture in one accessible location, while also providing artists a creative platform. Endlessly recreated by young and old, Boxville is a center for residents and an attraction to visitors who now consider 51st Street a destination for food, fun and more.