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Resident works to beautify vacant lots on Belmont

October 29, 2012|By Zara Husaini @zarhus | RedEye

When Chicagoans see old dilapidated pockets of space in the city, they usually write them off as causalities of urbanization. But last week, Erin Dowdall looked at the lots near her Roscoe Village home and saw potential. 

Dowdall, a 29-year-old who is starting her own business, grew up in Chicago but moved to New York in 2009, where she worked with Green Apple Corporation, an initiative group that works with the community. When she moved back to Chicago with her husband in April, she noticed a lack of urban environmental movements in the city. Dowdall drives her husband to the Belmont Blue Line Station often, and it was during one of these drives that she came up the idea for the Belmont Open Space Initiative.

The Initiative will work to transform rundown lots into spaces that benefit the community.  While Dowdall isn’t exactly sure what these spaces will eventually become, she calls them “ideal places to get the community together.”

Dowdall knows she can’t undertake this project by herself. She began publicizing her idea via a Web site and social media postings last Wednesday, and she’s already received 700 Web site visits. and more than 25 people have expressed interest in joining the movement.

“I’m ecstatic,” she said.  “People want to do something and see change.”

Dowdall hopes to enlist people for every part of the initiative’s process.

“I’m looking for people to take on leadership roles,” she said.

Starting the project just before winter hits may not seem like the most logical idea, but Dowdall did this intentionally. She knew that it would take some time before actual cleanup could start  because she’ll have to reach out the owners of the lots first.   

At this point, Dowdall is open to help in any form--from graphic design and Web hosting to facilitating a group meeting.

“I’m just excited," she said. "It’s in its infancy but there’s so much support and interest.”

For information about the project and how you can help, visit http://belmontopenspaceinitiative.wordpress.com/

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