Urban Agriculture Land Access Application Through ChiBlockBuilder

Urban Agriculture Land Access


Urban agriculture increases equitable community access to healthy foods, promotes community cohesion, and provides business and educational opportunities to neighborhood residents. As part of its
Food Equity Agenda, the City of Chicago seeks to reduce barriers for urban agriculture by increasing land access to growers through City-owned vacant land to be sold for $1 per parcel on the City’s land sale platform, ChiBlockBuilder. The purpose of this program is to support projects led by experienced growers that show a commitment to growing edible produce for community and long-term stewardship of the land.  It is anticipated that selected applicants are notified in early 2024 and the land transfer process is anticipated to begin shortly after. Successful applicants should demonstrate that they have sufficient financial and staff resources to begin in Spring / Summer 2024. 

The ChiBlockBuilder Urban Agriculture Land Access Application is currently closed. We expect to open applications in March 2024.

If you have identified a vacant lot that is owned by the City of Chicago and would like to inquire about its potential use for Urban Agriculture, please contact Bryan Bautista with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection bryan.bautista@cityofchicago.org, Maranda Raskin with the Office of the Mayor at maranda.raskin@cityofchicago.org, and Meg Gustafson with the Department of Planning and Development at meg.gustafson@cityofchicago.org.

Please read below materials and the Urban Land Access Application document prior to applying.

Who is this Program Designed For?  

  • Individual, non-profit organization, or business entities in the City of Chicago that are able to hold the land title to the site if selected.   
  • Commit to growing edible food for the local community.  
  • Have connections to the community the applicant would like to grow in or a detailed community engagement plan that aligns with neighborhood goals.   
  • Have a long-term commitment to land stewardship and using the site for urban agriculture (for a minimum of 10 years).  
  • Be able to maintain and care for the site; have sufficient financing to purchase and pay property taxes on the site as well as other operational maintenance costs.   
  • Have previous experience growing.  
  • Before title transfer, must demonstrate sufficient progress towards establishing an urban farm (such as obtaining necessary permits for the project and conducting initial site preparation).  

 

Selection Criteria  

Category  

Description  

Feasibility of Project  

Priority given to projects with clear plans and designs and realistic timeline, and that are ready to start activating the land during spring/ summer 2024. 

 

Community Support and Impact  

Priority given to projects that have support from other growers, neighbors, or organizations as indicated through letters of support, community meetings, or clear plans to engage the community they want to grow in. Priority given to projects that will provide/sell food for the community they grow in.        

             

Sustainability of the Project  

Priority given to projects with evidence of clear commitment and financial and technical support, including: funding, partnerships with other organizations and clear plans for identifying further funding. 

  

Applicant  

Priority given to applicants residing in Chicago with connections to the neighborhood they are applying in. Priority given to applicants from communities disproportionately impacted by food insecurity. 

Experience Growing  

Priority given to projects where the applicant has previous experience with urban agriculture and similar projects  

 

Urban Agriculture Land Access Application  

Applicant requirements:  

  • Non-profit, business, or individual with connections to community  
  • Previous experience growing, and commitment to growing edible produce for the local community . 
  • Proof of support to maintain and pay taxes on the site (e.g., funding, letters of support) . 
  • Long-term commitment to use the site for urban agriculture (minimum of 10 years).  

Site requirements:  

  • Environmentally cleared (unless explicitly specified), sufficiently large (>9000 sq. ft.), and zoned for community garden or urban farm . 
  • No competing projects or previous development applications.  

Program design:  

  • Parcels will be sold for $1.  
  • Before the title is transferred to the applicant, the applicant must demonstrate sufficient progress towards urban farm creation; examples of such activities include obtaining a produce merchant license, obtaining a business license, and initial site preparation.  These activities must be completed within one year of selection. The Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) will verify that these requirements are met. 
  • Selected applicants also commit to long-term stewardship of the site for urban agriculture (for a minimum of 10 years, after which there are no further restrictions on land use).   
  • Annually, selected applicants will be required to submit proof of acceptable land use to BACP, which will monitor land activity for the first 5 years.  
  • Active maintenance of the site includes but is not limited to growing produce for the community, maintenance of soil beds, weed removal, maintenance of fencing, and maintenance of hoop houses. 
  • Farms are expected to be fully operational within five years. If by the fifth year a farm has not reached this milestone, DPD may require the buyer to either (a) sell the land to another entity who can continue urban agriculture operations, or (b) reconvey the land to the City 

Application materials required:  

  • Completed application form that includes 
  • Detailed project description and site plan  
  • Project budget (e.g., estimated costs for first year of site ownership, including water access costs; construction costs for hoop house, fence, or growing beds; soil and seed costs; labor costs; etc.)  
  • Proof of support for the project from other community growers, neighbors, community organizations, and / or non-profit organizations  
  • Description of impact on adjacent neighbors and surrounding neighborhood  


Benefits of urban agriculture across the City of Chicago
 

  • Food access: Increase equitable access to fresh produce . 
  • Local business: Promote small business / entrepreneurship opportunities for constituents and strengthen neighborhood tax base.  
  • Neighborhood revitalization: Transform vacant lots (without other planned developments) into vibrant, green gathering spaces . 
  • Workforce growth: Generate new employment and volunteer opportunities in the neighborhood . 
  • Community nourishment: In addition to physical nourishment, provide educational and community engagement opportunities. 

 

Program  Contact  
Bryan Bautista  
Email: bryan.bautista@cityofchicago.org  
Phone: 312-744-5366