Individuals and community groups such as block clubs, condo associations, nonprofit organizations and local businesses that have developed green space can apply to NeighborSpace if they wish to preserve the site and keep the property as community-managed open space. Here are some frequently asked questions about the process.
- Should my group apply to become a NeighborSpace site? Are we eligible?
- How does my group apply to become a NeighborSpace site?
- How long will the review and acquisition process take?
- If we become a NeighborSpace site, what will be our responsibilities?
- How do I find out who currently owns our property?
Should my group apply to become a NeighborSpace site? Are we eligible?
NeighborSpace is a community garden land trust. This means that we work to preserve land that is already in use for community gardening when it needs to be protected from threats of changing land ownership. If you are looking to start a community garden from scratch, we are not your ideal partner, and we suggest you instead check out the resources at CCGA.
Each application is carefully reviewed under criteria that include:
- Feasibility for site acquisition. Is the current owner willing to sell or donate the land to NeighborSpace?
- Evidence of long-term viability. Is there local need for open space? Are there resources and leadership to support its continued role in community life? Are community groups already actively engaged in developing a site as a park or garden?
- Evidence of stakeholder support. Does the garden have at least 3 garden leaders, 10 other gardeners, and 1 community organization partner?
- Environmental integrity of the property, determined through research and possibly testing conducted by an independent contractor.
How does my group apply to become a NeighborSpace site?
There are two major steps to apply:
- The Application Form is a series of essay questions and support documents that allows NeighborSpace to develop a compelling picture of your garden. Send your completed application to:
445 N Sacramento Blvd, Suite 204
Chicago, IL 60612
- Once we’ve received your application, we will ask you to fill out the Online Partnership Agreement, which allows us to get up-to-date contact info for your site’s Garden Leaders, gardeners, and community organization partners. It also ensures that applicants know about NeighborSpace procedures, responsibilities, and resources. Each individual involved in the garden should fill out their own partnership agreement.
How long will the review and acquisition process take?
Typically, the application review process takes from four to six months. If there is immediate danger of losing a community managed garden or park because of a land sale or its redevelopment, NeighborSpace may be able to expedite application review.
If an application is favorably reviewed, NeighborSpace staff begins the land acquisition process. Property acquisition can involve many steps and many potential challenges unique to each site, and this stage of the process can sometimes take up to two years.
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If we become a NeighborSpace site, what will be our responsibilities?
NeighborSpace is committed to creating successful partnerships with community gardeners and other stakeholders. The success of NeighborSpace depends on the success of each site, and success occurs when strong, respectful partnerships are developed and supported over time. The Online Partnership Agreement describes the community garden rights, responsibilities, and resources that help support these goals. You find printable versions of that information here.
How do I find out who currently owns our property?
As part of the application review process, NeighborSpace will research property ownership. If you would like to learn about this before applying, here are some resources.
STEP 1: Find out the street address of your site.
- Measure the length and width of the lot. Most Chicago lots are 25 to 30 feet across the front and 120 to 130 feet back to the alley. If your lot measures 50 feet across the front, it is probably two lots and may have two addresses.
- Count forward or backward from the nearest address you can find on that street to estimate the address of the lot. Keep in mind that odd number addresses are usually on the east and south sides of the street and even numbers are on the west and north sides.
STEP 2: Find out who currently owns the site. There are several ways to do this:
- Identify “Property Identification Number” or PIN for the property you are inquiring about. (In rare occasions on a vacant lot there may be several PINs and these properties can be owned by several different entities. Please email email@example.com and we can help support research on land ownership.)
- You can use the Cook County Property Tax Portal to find the PIN. You will need the address of the property you are searching.
- You can email the City-Owned Land System Database firstname.lastname@example.org to see if it’s owned by the City of Chicago. Make sure you know the correct address and If it is, ask for the “Property Identification Number” or PIN for the property.
- You can also type in the address on the City Owned Land Inventory to see if it is owned by the City of Chicago and who, if anyone, is currently managing it.
- If the property is not owned by the City of Chicago, you can visit the Cook County Assessor’s website to enter the address and receive the site’s PIN. Once you have the PIN, you can visit the Recorder of Deeds Tract Department to obtain ownership information. Their office is located in the Cook County Building, 118 N. Clark, Room 120.
- If the lot is not owned by the City, or you can not find it on the Cook County Assessor’s website, visit the County Clerk’s Office located in the County Building at 118 N. Clark. There you will need to first ask staff for guidance on finding out the PIN of the site. Once you have the PIN staff can assist you in locating ownership information.
- Search online by using a real estate information provider like RealInfo at realinfo.net. This is a paid service and each search will cost $10. Once at their site, choose Target Express and follow the directions to locate ownership information by street address or PIN.