Residents in Hyde Park and South Shore meet with Park District CEO

By TONIA HILL
Staff Writer

Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC) held its first monthly meeting of the year Monday evening, Jan. 9, at the Jackson Park Fieldhouse, 6401 S. Stony Island Ave.

Last night, there was standing room only as residents of Hyde Park and South Shore packed the room to voice their sentiments and issues involving the upcoming South Shore Golf Complex project. Chicago Park District CEO Michael Kelly was on hand to answer questions and comments in regards to the project.

Last month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Tiger Woods, a career professional golf player, would oversee the renovations for a new, $30 million golf complex for golf courses at Jackson Park, 6401 S. Richards Dr., and South Shore, 7059 E. South Shore Dr.

The courses will be transformed and combined into a single 18-hole championship course and a shorter course.

The newly developed, Chicago Parks Golf Alliance (CPGA), a nonprofit, will fund the $30 million project.

Accessibility, safety, inclusiveness, costs for current golfers, jobs, parking, and funding for the project were ideas residents expressed during the meeting.

Natasha Dunn, a South Shore resident, asked whether or not the project would include a bridge or underpass so that golfers and visitors will be safe while crossing the street at South Jeffrey.

“We cannot get across the street without almost getting hit,” Dunn said. “We need a bridge; we need an underpass or overpass or something of that nature.”

Dunn said, “Between 67th and 79th streets there is non-stop traffic, for four straight lights.”

Kelly said he agreed with Dunn’s assessment and said a part of the project would be to create an underpass.

“Our vision for this project is to build an underpass at 67th and South Shore not just for golfers but for the community to get people underneath it,” Kelly said. “We also need an underpass at Jeffery the idea of golf carts and cars does not make any sense.”

Funding for the underpass would be separate from monies dedicated to the golf complex. According to Kelly it would be costly.

Jackson Park and South Shore golfers also spoke up about the costs that they believe could drive up just how much they pay to use the courses.

“They are going to be as low as I can possibly do them,” Kelly said. “We will keep the fees as low as we possibly can for city residents for non-city residents it’s going to go up considerably.”

The project is years in the making, and there is no word yet on specifics for the golf complex, but some in the South Shore community are excited about the possibilities of the golf complex.

“I would love to break ground in spring,” Kelly said. “I haven’t raised a nickel yet, so I have to raise the money before we put a shovel in the ground.”

Kelly said the park will never have all the courses shut down at the same time.

Diane Meades, a board member of The Fairway Network, is a made up of 100 businesswomen. The organization hosts a variety of golf and social events throughout Chicago and the surrounding area. Meades runs the league at Jackson Park.

“I can see additions, perhaps, improvements but combining the two courses does not make any sense when you look at the economic setting,” Meades said. “PGA events at Jackson Park, you might get one every three to four years.”

Meades believes that forging partnerships with the Boys & Girls Clubs and other organizations would be beneficial instead of the Park District taking the lead in managing the golf complex.

“Why stand alone and have everybody thinking they can be a single entity and be all things to all folks, it does not make sense,” Meades said. “The city can’t even pay its bills. The state doesn’t have a budget. We are going to raise money to redo two golf courses when there is not even a grocery store south of 71st Street.”

More than one resident expressed their thoughts on keeping the youth in the community centered on the project for jobs and programming geared towards the youth.

Outdoor space at Jackson Park will be used to house President Barack Obama’s Presidential Center (OPC) that is slated to open in Jackson Park in 2021. Some suggested building a multi-sports complex so that youth activities in the area are not displaced by OPC.

Monday’s meeting was the first of many meetings Kelly will have with community in regards to the golf complex. Kelly will visit Ald. Leslie Hairston’s (5th) Ward meeting later this month.

t.hill@hpherald.com