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Residents rally behind closing of liquor store

After a 3-year grassroots effort, the city closed down an East Garfield Park liquor store neighbors and activists say was frequented by drug dealers and prostitutes.

"Many of us have been praying and believing in God to change it, close it, and move it out," Noreen Hughes said. Hughes is a 50 year resident of the East Garfield Park community.

Two weeks ago, the City of Chicago closed the liquor store located in the 2900-block of West Madison. Neighbors say the liquor store was a hangout for illicit activities.

"On Sunday mornings the number of prostitutes in front of this place was unbelievable," Alderman Bob Fioretti, 2nd Ward.

"And it wasn't safe to walk my dog or walk my child past this street because of the actions at the liquor store," Karen Castleberry said.

"I would go to a full block out of the way to walk down the street and wait on the corner for the bus," Marissa Baker said.

The Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance worked closely with residents and the department of buildings to close the store and looks forward to the building's demolition.

"They played a pivotal role in closing down the liquor store and there was 40 violations at the site," Mike Tomas, Garfield Park Conservatory, said.

In the past year, a small coalition of block clubs in the area collaborated to address crime and secure 23 vacant properties around the store.

"We would like to see owner occupied, (that) would be the best," John Perryman said.

Residents, community organizers and city officials say the goal is to improve the commercial corridor in the neighborhood, beginning with healthy food options in the neighborhood, referred to as a food desert.

"We don't have any place to shop. So it would be really good to see this become a vibrant neighborhood again," Castleberry said.

"I felt great about it. It took the combined effort of everyone to get this closed," Gloria Austin said.

Residents said they will follow the suspected drug dealers and prostitutes if they move to other corners of the neighborhood. They said they hope the illicit activities will eventually end and the whole community will get involved.

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