This week, city officials marked the start of pride month by formally breaking ground on the long-discussed AIDS Garden Chicago along the lakefront. In the planning phase for more than a decade, the project will be the city’s first public monument dedicated to individuals lost to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and those who continue who live with the disease. 

Designed by Design Workshop, the 2.5-acre green space is located just south of Belmont Harbor in Lakeview. The site is just steps from the former location of the Belmont Rocks, which has been a long-time gathering place for Chicago’s LGBTQ community as well as a makeshift memorial for victims of AIDS.

Design Workshop

AIDS Garden Chicago will provide lush lawns, planting beds, a meditation grove, and pathways including an "education walk" featuring colored concrete bands that signify important milestones in Chicago's fight against the epidemic, according to the project's website. The centerpiece of the park, a 30-foot-tall green sculpture from artist Keith Haring titled Self-Portrait, was installed in 2019 as part of an earlier phase.

"This project is near and dear to my heart and it has been a priority of mine since 2005 to break ground on the garden," said Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) in his weekly newsletter. "Honoring all those we have lost to the HIV/AIDS epidemic is a critical part of telling the story of our neighborhood."

The garden is a collaboration between private donors, community nonprofit organizations, the Chicago Park Foundation, and the Chicago Park District. The project was slow to materialize due to funding shortfalls but received a $1.5 million boost in 2019 courtesy of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's $45 billion capital expenditure bill. The project's organizers hope to complete construction and open the garden by fall of this year.

Courtesy 44th Ward