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Sunlight of the Spirit Fulton Recovery Residence | Green Building: Roof, Porch, Stairs…

Sunlight of the Spirit Fulton Recovery Residence | Green Building: Roof, Porch, Stairs...

The vision: Food, shade, and stormwater management - rooftop gardens, vertical gardens, and additional landscaping to be added to a site currently with nearly zero living matter! Rendering by Diana Naydenova

Urban Habitat Chicago has been working with Jack Clark’s Family and Recovering Communities this nonprofit organization which serves those with past substance abuse.

In 2010 UHC completed a green roof for the site, training residents in rooftop farming and providing food for the Community food Pantry located below. (Unfortunately, after a thriving year, the building roof was severely damaged by storms - only the garden area was protected from serious damage!)

In 2011 UHC began designs for a new porch and stair project to provide exterior space for the residents. The sustainable porch will be constructed in high content recycled concrete, to last years to come, and to provide a prototype for Chicago fire stairs. Stormwater will be managed by repairs to the foundation, drains and existing cistern, as well as by vegetation planted on the porch facades. (See here for more on vertical gardening.)

Project Summary

The Sunlight of the Spirit Rooftop Recovery Garden will be a new food-producing rooftop garden atop an existing 36-unit residential and community service building at 3200 W. Fulton / 306 N. Kedzie.
The design goal of the Sunlight of the Spirit Rooftop Recovery Garden is to re-imagine a considerable portion of the urban environment as a diverse, robust, productive, and beautiful constructed rooftop ecosystem, rather than simply another isolated ‘green roof’. The roof garden is Phase I of a larger ongoing project to redesign the total site and building together as an integrated, sustainable whole, improving its energy-efficiency through envelope improvements (reintroducing natural light through restored skylights, basic weatherization) and lessening its environmental impact through vertical and horizontal planting, stormwater collection and bioremedation, and prewiring for future rooftop solar thermal / photovoltaics.

Mural at food pantry

Community Served

The building houses 114 clients of Jack Clark’s Family who are in recovery from alcohol and/or drug addiction, 50% of whom are ex-offenders and 10-15% of whom are under electronic detention by Department of Corrections and who are restricted to the site, including youth offenders from age 17-25. Sunlight of the Spirit leases space in this building from Jack Clark’s Family, for the Second Chance Resource Center (job search and training), and the Loaves & Fishes food pantry, which serves 800 community members per week. The rooftop garden will help supply this pantry with fresh produce— a much needed addition to food pantry offerings. Residents and local community members will be trained by Urban Habitat Chicago (UHC) in organic roof gardening techniques in order to maintain the garden.

UHC’s Lee Bouchard (left) and Mike Repkin during a February 2010 design charrette.


The Sunlight of the Spirit’s Rooftop Recovery Garden will improve the quality of life of residents and combat recidivism by empowering a population of at-risk individuals to positively connect to their community by engaging in productive, meaningful work—critical to fostering self-worth and purpose—and to both heal and inspire by “making” food and helping others. Residents of Jack Clark’s house and those who receive fresh produce from the food pantry will also participate in or witness the implementation of sustainable practices and concepts—in this case growing food on a dense urban lot—in cities.

Early rendering, February 2010

Process and Goals

UHC, will design, engineer, and implement a food-producing rooftop garden of approximately 8,000 sf area, as well as access stairs required for safe egress and conveyance of food. The resultant garden can employ one person per 1,000 sf (or eight workers total) capable of leading up to four youth or others from the larger community. The majority of resident participants will be eligible to earn rent-credit from Jack Clark’s for their work on the roof garden, while all participants will gain employment and life skills. Trained resident job captains will mentor youth and other members of the Recovery Garden program. By summer 2011, Sunlight of the Spirit will exclusively manage the rooftop garden, and train different groups of at-risk youth between the ages of 17-25 who were recently released from prison, in a new curriculum taught in Jack Clark’s Family existing 90-day youth program. Many young adults who grow up in the city have little opportunity to connect with nature. This rooftop garden will allow us to educate inner-city youth in plant propagation techniques, such as seed saving and grafting, provide a community gathering place, and encourage intergenerational contacts.

Sunlight of the Spirit’s Chad Roberson and UHC’s Mike Repkin (foreground) on the roof.

Our partner

The mission of Sunlight of the Spirit is to empower individuals who are homeless, ex-offenders, recovering from addiction, low-income, and other disenfranchised individuals who have the common goal to work towards self sufficiency. Our goal is to help provide the basic human needs to individuals can focus their attention on other goals instead of the daily pursuit of survival. Our philosophy is based on the concept of a “hand-up”, not a “hand-out” with the notion that if you give a man a fish he can eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish he can eat for a lifetime. We have faith and commitment to bring services to underserved populations and communities. Our existing initiatives provide the basic human needs: food, clothing, shelter, and employment resources to community members in need.

Current funding

$3,000 USGBC Legacy 2010 grant

Project team

UHC Personnel:
Dave Hampton, Paula O’ Connell, Diana Naydenova, Michael Repkin

UHC Partner Liaison:
Paula O’ Connell

UHC Volunteers
Carl Petersen

Jack Clark’s Recovering Communities personnel:
Denise Downing, Chad Roberson, Michalina Zawila

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