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No Prison Pallor Here
June 6, 2006 
By Leslie Baldacci, Staff Reporter, Chicago Sun Times


The plaza at Van Buren and Federal is so inviting this year, folks say, that more people seem drawn to it. It used to be a somewhat bleak concrete square, but now workers from nearby buildings stroll over to eat their lunches in a surround of pink and red roses and soothing greenery. More people pause and bide their time on the way from here to there. 
More than 100 Knockout rosebushes are now in bloom, adding to the palette of colors -- yellow and purple violas, blue-gray Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria) and juniper, Burning Bush and daylilies. Eight tall trees cast their shadows, and large hostas around the perimeter deepen the shade. 

The landscaper, Byrd Enterprises Unlimited of Great Falls, Mont., designs and manages gardens at many other federal facilities, including military bases and national parks. Byrd has cared for the federal plaza around the Dirksen and Kluczynski buildings here since 2003. The square at 71 W. Van Buren, which they took on this year, is its first prison. 

"When we first looked at it, there was a lot of dirt showing. We just wanted to beautify it more than anything," said Polly Byrd, who runs the business with her husband, Tony. "We try to incorporate a little bit of everything. Some people want to see color, color, color -- maybe even a specific color. Other people want to see green. We try to make a design plan that would have something to please everybody."

Summer flowers, mostly impatiens and begonias, go in later this month. But the roses should bloom all summer long outside the Metropolitan Correctional Facility, the pre-trial detention center housing minimum- to maximum-security federal prisoners. The 27-story building is an unusual triangular shape with irregular window patterns. 
"If you think about it, most prison complexes are outside the area. Some states may hire their own inmates to take care of them," Byrd said. "This is different. It's right downtown in the city of Chicago. It needs to be spruced up a little."



Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded. (2 Chronicles 15:7)