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30 Nov 2016

A Letter from Richard Dobbins

A Perspective:

Open Space, Sustainability, and “Influence Upon Inner City Living”

My name is Richard Dobbins, Jr.; I’m president/CEO of “South Side Roots, Inc.” a landscape/horticulture service firm. We are passionate about horticulture and its contribution to “Creating Livable, Lovable Space.” We serve the Chicago urban community and its neighborhoods.

In 1997 I returned to Chicago, my native home, and place of birth. As I began to re-acquaint myself and explore the city, numerous changes caught my attention.

grant_park_chicago_illinois_estados_unidos_2012-10-20_dd_03Lake shore Dr. along the lake front from the loop to 67th Street south impressed me. Though I started to notice the area I knew growing up had been transformed into a more welcoming space. The construction of street median planters and community gardens throughout the city softened the vine of the old concrete jungle

I began to contrast what I was seeing with the memory of Chicago during my younger years. I started to ask questions, seeking clues from those living here during the “Green” transforming period. I listened to their response. Many seem to view this as a reclaiming of the city by and for affluent Whites and Hipsters. Some African Americans felt people of color were being relocated and displaced to outer limits of the city.

This transformation, a commitment to the “THE GREEN MOVEMENT” and efforts to bring Chicago into “GREEN” culture had the appearance of changing neighborhoods, as an intentional, orchestrated gentrification act.

Make no mistake the green evolution in the City of Chicago has had an awesome influence upon where we are today! The positive change has impacted how our city is viewed and possible new attractions to come. Numerous neighborhoods have benefited and Chicago’s global presence elevated.

“Open space and Sustainability concerns and issues are a larger expanse of the “Green Movement.” The new and changing economy before us and its associated economic parameters with “Living Green,” Open Space and Sustainability, must recognize these same variance amongst and within neighborhoods and its diverse citizenry.

Representation of our entire city, their communities, their voice, being heard and listened to, not just in random community meetings but also as active decision making participants who are on responsible boards, committees and organizations moving the movement forward here in Chicago.

Everyone of us must reach across the fence and begin genuinely speaking, sharing, inviting and coming along the side of one another. We must not come with entrenched positions but be open to the wealth of knowledge, experience, and insight amongst our diverse population. So many times smaller voices feel discounted and of little value. We must draw upon the wealth within each of us for an even better City of Chicago. We all must embrace change, between with “the person in the mirror” prepare for the tomorrow today.

18 Nov 2016

“Healthy Schools Campaign Blog” Excerpt

- taken from "Healthy Schools Campaign Blog"

Celebrating Success in Chicago in 2015


Posted: 15 Dec 2015 08:11 AM PST

By Rochelle Davis, HSC President and CEO

It was a busy year in Chicago for Healthy Schools Campaign.

But it was also a challenging year. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is in the middle of budget woes and has experienced significant leadership changes. Despite that, we’ve stayed committed to keeping student health a wellness a priority and making healthy change across Chicago schools. And we saw several important successes in Chicago that continue to make schools better places to learn and work for all students and school staff.

I’m happy to share some of the exciting initiatives we worked on this year:

Taking stock of the district’s wellness policy. Healthy Schools Campaign is pleased to be partnering with the district to co-convene an advisory committee to assess the effectiveness of policy implementation, make recommendations and to share findings with the Chicago Board of Education, schools, community members and other key stakeholders. Read more.

Helping parents improve school food. CPS and Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC) have been working together for the past decade to transform the district's school meal program. Parent voices are key to this work. CPS and HSC partnered partnered to improve the feedback mechanism between parents and the school district and create a set of resources to better equip parents and schools to share important feedback about the meal program. We created a Principal Toolkit, a Frequently Asked Questions and a School Food Checklist documents for parents. Read more.

Greening Chicago’s Schoolyards with Space to Grow. Space to Grow, which HSC co-manages with Openlands, transforms Chicago schoolyards into centers for outdoor learning, play and engagement with nature and art. Plus, these schoolyards’ special design allows them to capture large amounts of rainwater, reducing flooding and protecting the environment.This year, we opened two more amazing schoolyards, with even more in the works for next year. Read more.

Equipping teachers, principals and parents with the tools to create health changes. Through our Fit to Learn and Parents United for Healthy Schools programs, we’ve provided training to more than 390 teachers, 45 principals and 350 parents. We continued that in 2015 with our Fit to Learn summer sessions and Parents United Parent Leadership Institute. We honored several of these great leaders at our annual Change for Good luncheon. Read more.

Up next: Watch this blog for good news about national successes we celebrated in 2015!

16 Nov 2016

Holiday Horticulture: The Plant Presence Present

Landscapes and the Holidays!


The holidays are bringing closure to this year and entry to a new one Ah! You may be thinking. ‘What’s your point?’

The point is, we often don’t realize the value of planning a landscape project. It’s important to identify where we can add value to our properties. The return on investment for a landscape project is important as well.

For example, trees and shrubbery, may aid in heating and cooling cost around your property, add privacy and screening as well as security around your property.

“I’ll get it done next year!” Maybe what you’re thinking when it comes to landscape projects.

If this resonates with you or someone you may know, think again! As you consider the New Year, why not look around your home and your outdoor space. Think of the possibilities!

Even take a few photos. Start compiling notes on what you envision. Consider how you may like to use your outdoor space. Are there particular features, colors present you rarely noticed? Walk around the inside looking out; are there windows that form a “picture frame” around some part of your outdoor space? Think what it would be like to add more living space!

Your landscape designer and horticulturist can be very helpful in assisting you with developing the design and landscape that works for you and your property. During this holiday season consider a conversation with us at South Side Roots, Inc., and begin planning your 2017 landscape now!

03 Oct 2016

Landscaping in Developing Areas

With all this talk about the South Side’s development and growth, there doesn’t seem to be much information on how landscaping plays a huge part in it all. Think about it. Landscaping is a subconscious factor that can influence how well certain areas do. While new businesses can encourage the economic growth of a neighborhood, exceptional landscaping can extend the personality and liveliness of that space. With both factors involved, what you get in the end is the face of a well-developed, up-and-coming neighborhood. We could all use a little color and vibrancy in our lives, and landscaping can provide just that.

Taken from: Can data and dollars solve the South and West sides' retail problem? | Crain's Sept. 14

Standing on the corner of 39th Street and King Drive on the site of the soon-to-open Mariano’s in Bronzeville, Lyneir Richardson stares admiringly—not at the grocer’s shiny new sign, but at the vacant lots across the street.

“Look at those ‘For Sale,’ signs,” he says. “They weren’t there a few months ago. (The Mariano’s store) is a catalytic type of investment. The question is, what other retail should be here that will help continue strengthening the neighborhood?”

He says the adjacent properties, near the former site of the Chicago Housing Authority’s Ida B. Wells Homes, should include a sit-down restaurant, perhaps a UPS store and an urgent-care or day care center, as well as a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi.

What Richardson hopes won’t materialize? Dollar stores, beauty supply stores, fast-food joints and check-cashing spots. It’s tricky to prevent those players from overtaking an area, as many are operated by publicly traded corporations that move fast and pay top dollar for space that doesn’t receive much other interest.

But Richardson, CEO of Chicago Trend, or Transforming Retail Economics of Neighborhood Development, says his new for-profit social enterprise company, backed by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation through the Chicago Community Loan Fund and Chicago Community Trust, has three advantages that will help it build top-tier retail developments in Bronzeville, Chatham, Pullman and other neighborhoods on the South and West sides: data, development contacts and dollars.

To get independent businesses and major chains like Chipotle and Target to move into “transitional” neighborhoods, Richardson says, Trend is using sophisticated analysis and newly collected data about neighborhood buying power. It’s also banking on relationships with retailers he and his co-founder, Robert Weissbourd, have formed over a collective 50 years in the real estate and development worlds, plus $7 million in prestigious MacArthur funding that will be used as an incentive for retailers to move into places they might otherwise overlook.

Trend’s steering committee is stacked with prominent developers such as David Baum and John Bucksbaum.

The idea for Trend germinated five years ago, when Weissbourd, a former Shorebank executive who runs economic consultancy RW Ventures, began talking with MacArthur execs about the thorny issues surrounding creating viable retail in underserved neighborhoods.

“How do we figure out which stores would come anyway—we don’t want to finance a Starbucks in Lincoln Park—and which ones are going to fail—we don’t want to finance a Tiffany in a place that doesn’t make sense,” Weissbourd says.

After four years of work and data collection, Weissbourd and Richardson have the results of an 8,500-person survey about where Chicagoans shop and where they’re likely to move. The survey, conducted by economic policy firm EConsult Solutions, allows Trend to more accurately predict retail opportunities and reduce risks.

03 Oct 2016

Guess Who Else Thinks We Need More Green?

South Shore is a beautiful place, but I believe all places could benefit from having a little more landscaping. Looks like Tiger Woods agrees, too! How are you feeling about the possible change?

Taken from: Tiger Woods could be teaming up with Mike Keiser on Chicago golf course project | GolfDigest Sept. 15

According to a report by the Chicago Tribune, [Tiger] Woods could be involved in a Chicago golf course project involving Bandon Dunes owner Mike Keiser. NBC/Golf Channel’s Mark Rolfing told the Tribune the Woods hiring is “not a done deal,” but Keiser believes the 14-time major champ “is on board” and that he may waive his design fee since the course will benefit the First Tee of Greater Chicago.

The project, which would create a championship golf course out of two existing public tracks, Jackson Park and South Shore courses, is not a done deal yet, either. Although the involvement of Keiser and Woods would help in the development that would have some holes along the lakefront and be just steps away from the Obama Library. Having the support of the golf-loving President wouldn’t hurt, either.

In an email to the Tribune, Woods’ spokesman, Glenn Greenspan, said, “At this time, we have no new design projects to announce.”

Rolfing said Woods took a tour of the property last month and two-time Masters champ and renowned course designer Ben Crenshaw has also checked out the site. Rolfing hopes the project will include a short course for kids and quick rounds, and Keiser envisions it being a walking-only facility like Bandon Dunes.

03 Oct 2016

Benefits and Value of Plants

Have you ever stop in the midst of a casual walk, a stroll in your neighborhood or a park, gazed about noticing and paying attention to the trees, grass areas and, various plant materials around you? What thoughts might have wandered through your mind what feelings inside may have overcome you or stirred emotions within you? Or, are the trees, shrubbery and grass areas taken for granted, no attention paid?

Have you ever thought, pondered what value, and the importance of plant materials to you, your very life and existence? How about, the economic contribution plant materials provide to mankind in general? Have you ever thought about, seriously considered the array of benefits plants provide you?  

Plants provide oxygen, essential for you and I to breathe, food to eat, source of all medicinal needs as well as materials for shelter. These being just the basics! Oh! So much more plants contribute to our everyday life and living, yet often so many times taken for granted!
(Google “Benefits of Plants” to learn more!)

03 Oct 2016

Horticulture & Education

Horticulture and Children Daycare, Elementary, and High School Education:

Something I think about often: maximizing exterior space use of school property, increasing educational tools and process for teaching children. A serious conversation and a strategic action plan initiation to consider.

Consider this….

“With children’s access to the outdoors and the natural world becoming increasingly limited and/or nonexistent, child care, kindergarten and schools, where children spend 40 to 50 hours per week, may be mankind’s last opportunity to reconnect children with the natural world and create a future generation that values and preserves nature (Herrington and Studtmann 1998, Malone and Tranen 2003)”.

“Many authorities believe the window of opportunity for the formation of bonding with and positive attitudes towards the natural environment develops sometime during early and middle childhood and requires regular interaction with nearby nature (Cohen and Horn-Wingerg 1993)”.

I suggest “School Grounds” are the perfect space in urban inner cities schools for kids to be kids, at the earliest of age at play, interacting, exploring and observing nature together. Transforming the school exterior grounds into outdoor learning environments, that is, outdoor learning laboratories is an educational opportunity to be captured and utilized. Connecting our young people to various aspects of nature, ecology, a realm of science not to be dismissed nor forgotten. Imagine school grounds as a place for investigating, analyzing soil, plant materials, observing insects, hydrology and water flow all done at appropriate age and grade levels. Also, as a part of social interaction.

Around this subject matter much research exist. Adding to this thinking is research which also support the horticulture impact in terms of how a school’s landscape looks viewed from within, impacts and influence children’s learning, behavior and retention in a positive manner. Provided done with these concerns in mind.      

The possibilities suggested here potentially could have a reallocation of funds over time from maintenance to the actual educational lessons by way of landscape maintenance cost reduction.

Suggestion: to learn more, google:

  1. Landscaping impact on student learning at schools
  2. Landscaping and horticulture improve children education and learning
  3. Incremental Integration: A successful service-learning strategy
  4. Children nature and you.org
  5. Your Children’s Relationship with Nature: Its importance to children’s development and the earth’s future
  6. Young children’s relationship with nature the seed of learning
  7. The need for nature: a childhood right
22 Oct 2015

We Won The ‘Best Landscaper Company’ Award

Yesterday we were awarded with the ‘Best Landscaper Of The Country’ award. These award of excellence were awarded for projects we designed and installed. This awards reflect our commitment to creative design, ongoing excellence in engineering, and our ability to produce beautiful and functional outdoor living spaces of which people are proud.

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