5th August 2017

Dr Danielle Kizaire (Co-founder)
Charles Sutton (Co-founder)
Marie Leaner (Board member)
Jean-Paul Thomas (Board member)
Blake Davis (Executive director) - conf call
Orrin Williams (Board member) - conf call

BUD board meeting

Today’s board meeting was insightful. Since BUD have been pursuing their vision for the disused Kenwood line for 12 years now, with each meeting I am exposed to certain intricacies that go unexplained in an initial description of the project. As you can imagine, it is not possible to recount over a decade of community consultation, municipal hoop-jumping and pecuniary wins and setbacks in just a few hours. But each meeting improves my understanding of the complex socio-political context in which the CBO must operate.

So, to remind you, BUD has started to plant sunflower crops on empty plots near the disused Kenwood embankment. These will a) remediate the soil, as contaminants are drawn up into the stems and leaves, and b) provide a source of sunflower oil that will be turned into biofuel using equipment at a nearby CBO called The Plant. BUD then plans to use the biofuel in conjunction with proposed solar arrays on the Kenwood embankment to start a renewable energy microgrid in Bronzeville. Profits from this energy sale will go straight back into the project, expanding the microgrid and testing the principles of decentralised renewable energy provision within inner city neighbourhoods.

A trial sunflower crop planted by BUD is visible in the background here, behind Billy Ray and his friends.

I cannot discuss much of the content of this meeting without potentially compromising the project, but I can make some general comments. In Chicago, acquiring land for CBO use is dependent on engaging the local alderman and submitting a realistic proposal with evidence of funding. BUD has land in the form of a private donation – the Kenwood line embankment – and is also arranging to contractually plant on plots owned by the Cook County Land Bank. It seems that the city has a history of quiet land-swapping and crafty covenants that essentially permit previous owners a degree of residual control over land they no longer own, by retaining certain mineral or air rights. Also worth noting is that a new website is needed and Danielle is hoping that I will be able to design it for them using my knowledge of HTML and CSS coding. We would like to embed some mind-mapping software that BUD already utilises to keep track of all contacts, connections and project elements, and how they tie together (an application called TheBrain.)

An unrelated point, but too interesting not to include. Levelling the embankment was apparently estimated to cost $90 million. The majority of that expense would have been from remediating the contaminated soil rather than removing the concrete structure.

Jean-Paul gave me a lift home after the meeting - my first experience of an American expressway!