Chicago Rooftop Haven for Urban Agriculture

photo: Scott Shigley

The Gary Comer Youth Center Roof Garden is an after-school learning space for youth and seniors in a neighborhood with little access to safe outdoor environments. Last year alone, it produced over 1,000 pounds of organic food used by students, local restaurants and the center’s café. Sleek and graphic, it turns the typical working vegetable garden into a place of beauty and respite.

Located in Chicago’s Grand Crossing neighborhood, the Gary Comer Youth Center offers a safe, welcoming
after-school space for indoor activity. Its 8,160 square foot green roof is a model for using traditionally underutilized space for urban agriculture and exceptional in its balance of an aesthetic vision with practical needs. The garden provides the crowning touch to an award-winning building recognized for its bold architecture.

The landscape architect worked closely with the architect and donor to develop a vision for a green roof to include a flower and working vegetable garden, and suggested that the center employ a full-time garden manager to enhance educational program development and manage maintenance. The result is a garden used in extremely creative ways for horticultural learning, environmental awareness and food production.
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