Trust for Public Land Helps to Sow Seeds of Change and Bring Sears Sunken Garden Back to Life

Trust for Public Land, with Friends of the Sears Sunken Garden, Foundation for Homan Square, and the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council GROWSS (Greening, Open Space, Water, Soil, and Sustainability) Committee, announces restoration plans for the Sears Sunken Garden space. 

The garden, a 1.7-acre green space once designed for employees working on the Sears campus in North Lawndale, has been a landmark in the neighborhood for over a century. Serving as a space for employees, residents, and families to escape hectic city life, the garden featured fountains, pools often filled with goldfish, and flowers grown year-round in the onsite greenhouses. While several buildings on the Sears Campus were redeveloped after the Sears headquarters was moved downtown, and the Sears Sunken Garden fell into disrepair.  

“Trust for Public Land and our community partners have been dedicated to restoring this National Historic Landmark to its former glory for the North Lawndale community and for it to once again serve as a destination for all visitors to the region,” said Caroline O’Boyle, Associate Vice President, Illinois State Director for Trust for Public Land. “Community-led engagement sessions and design workshops have set the stage for a renovated Sears Sunken Garden to honor the neighborhood’s history and help create its future.”  

The transformation of Sears Sunken Garden will highlight North Lawndale’s ambition for a green future, as articulated in its 2018 Quality of Life Plan, and serve as a visible symbol of the renaissance underway in dozens of gardens and outdoor spaces throughout the community. The restored garden will serve over 7,000 residents who live within a 10-minute walk of the space as well as visitors from across the city and region. 

The design team includes Piet Oudolf, Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm, Annamaria Leon of Homan Grown L3C, landscape architect Camille Applewhite of BlackSpace Chicago, architect Odile Compagnon, and historic preservationist Lynette Stuhlmacher of Red Leaf Studio. Over 150 people have participated in online and in-person engagement and design sessions to provide comments on flower plantings, water features, and signage, which will help guide the work of the design team. 

“I’m looking forward to working with this great community to give this historic neighborhood garden a bright future for residents to enjoy for many years to come,” said landscape designer Piet Oudolf. 

This project is supported in part by Trust for Public Land, through a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF). Funding also came through BMO Harris Bank and an anonymous donor. The official design phase of the reimagined Sears Sunken Garden is currently underway. DDCF supported Trust for Public Land’s Equitable Communities Fund (ECF) investment in the community partner, North Lawndale Employment Network.  

As part of the Equitable Communities Fund a grant was awarded to allow the North Lawndale Employment Network in Chicago to engage horticulture and landscaping professionals throughout the neighborhood. The ECF program is designed to energize efforts for creating parks and stabilizing organizations that provide essential services in communities subjected to underinvestment and hit hardest by COVID-19. The grant will help jumpstart employment opportunities through green jobs by devising recruitment, training, and employment strategies around the project. 

About Trust for Public Land 

Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres of public land, created more than 5,000 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $84 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected more than 9 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit

About Friends of the Sears Sunken Garden 

Established in 2021, Friends of the Sears Sunken Garden promotes and assists the redesign, construction and maintenance of the historic Sears Sunken Garden for the use and enjoyment of the people of the City of Chicago, and to promotes gardening and horticultural education at the site. 

About North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council 

The North Lawndale Coordinating Council is a group of North Lawndale stakeholders, including community-based organizations, business owners, elected officials and individuals, that guide comprehensive planning and implementation in North Lawndale. The North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council improves the physical, economic and social fiber of the local community through strategic and comprehensive planning, civic engagement and implementation of stakeholder-driven initiatives. We continually develop and execute bold community-driven solutions with the input of an engaged community that questions assumptions and challenges the status quo. 

About the GROWSS Committee (GReen Open space Water, Soil and Sustainability) 

The GROWSS committee is part of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council and focuses on enacting the green and open space goals outlined in the 2018 Quality of Life Plan. These include 1) developing available green spaces and vacant lots to promote cohesion and develop North Lawndale as a hub for the greening industry, and to promote healthy living and environmental awareness, 2) empowering residents and organizations to create artistic, beautiful, clean, and environmentally diverse landscapes, and 3) create and maintain safe, high-quality parks and recreation areas throughout the community.