Mars International is working with Galewood Neighbors, a community organization, to get a sense of what the residents want to see happen to its longtime Galewood candy factory at 2019 N. Oak Park Ave. The company announced earlier this year that it plans to leave the facility in 2024.
Galewood Neighbors recently released an online survey on its website inviting residents from every neighborhood in the Austin community area, as well as the neighboring Montclare and Belmont Cragin communities, to rank multiple possible options for the future use of the site and submit suggestions of their own.
Galewood Neighbors President Steve Green said the survey was based on some early discussions with area organizations. The input will ultimately be used to develop a request for proposal document that they’ll utilize to select the site developer.
The Galewood plant opened in 1929, on the site of the Westward Ho golf course, next to what eventually became Metra’s Milwaukee District West line. In January, Mars announced that it will wind down operations, closing the plant for good in 2024. They indicated that they want to turn over the land to a developer supported by community members and that they would donate the property to whatever entity receives the most substantial community support.
Green said that Mars is working with the Chicago affiliate of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), an organization that supports community development efforts in low and moderate-income neighborhoods.
LISC Chicago previously helped create several community development plans, including the Austin Quality of Life Plan. Green said that LISC reached out to several community organizations from Austin and Belmont Cragin, including Galewood Neighbors and the Austin Coming Together coalition, to help shape the plans and gather public input.
On Feb. 9, Galewood Neighbors held a virtual public meeting to give residents a chance to share their ideas. They also organized a Mars Closing Committee to “discuss our communities’ next steps to address the announcement of the Mars Candy Plant closing.”
The committee had its first meetings on March 16 and it currently plans to meet monthly. The event listings on Galewood Neighbors’ website includes contact information for residents who want to tune in. Green said that all the meetings have been well-attended.
Green said that the organizations had several preliminary conversations that helped shape the survey. They will hold the first of several formal meetings, which will not be open to the public, this month. Green said that he hopes to get a decent number of responses by then, but the survey will remain open for the next few weeks, so residents will still be able to provide their input.
In the survey introduction, Galewood Neighbors wrote that they hope that the process “will attract developers and/or local community organizations that will truly serve the wants and needs of the Greater West and Northwest Sides of our city.”
The link to the survey is available on the “Mars Survey” page at Galewood Neighbors’ official website, at https://galewoodneighbors.org/