Chicago Park District presents updated golf design plan to the community

As Beau Welling, senior design consultant for TGR, Tiger Wood’s golf course design firm, listens, Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly speaks about the latest proposal for the 18-hole redesign of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses during a media briefing that took place immediately before a public meeting on the proposal at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr., Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

By TONIA HILL
Staff Writer

Over 200 people gathered at the South Shore Cultural Center on Wednesday evening to hear about the updated design plan for the proposed merger of the Jackson Park and South Shore Park golf courses. The public meeting was a part of the Park District’s ongoing South Lakefront Framework Plan process.

The proposal has drawn criticism for its effect on Jackson Park and the local public golf players.

The updated plan released on Wednesday by the Chicago Park District and the Tiger Woods-owned golf design company, TGR Design incorporated new elements to its design based on feedback from the community expressed by the community over the last several months.

The new version of the design plan includes a relocated golf pavilion, improved pedestrian trail connectivity and added acreage of natural areas across the golf course.

Beau Welling, a senior design consultant for TGR Design, presented updates to a packed room at the Cultural Center on Wednesday.

Conceptual designs for the proposed golf course merger were first presented to the community in June 2017.

The proposal is for professional golf courses that will cost $30 million. If the project is approved, the present two golf courses would be transformed and combined into a single 18-hole championship course and a shorter course for children and families.

Beau Welling, senior design consultant for TGR, Tiger Wood’s golf course design firm, points out changes in the latest proposal for the 18-hole redesign of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses that allow greater access to the park/golf course for pedestrians and bicyclists during a media briefing that took place immediately before a public meeting on the proposal at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr., Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

“There’s still 10 holes west of Jeffrey [Boulevard] in Jackson Park there are three holes east of Jeffrey [Boulevard] in Jackson Park, there are still five holes down at South Shore,” Welling said adding that the placement is similar to the design plan that was shared with the public in June.

What has changed, he said is the configuration of the 10 holes west of Jeffrey Boulevard the reason for the adjustment is because the design team has relocated the starting and stopping point for golf toward the center of the course.

As golfers use the course, they will return to the clubhouse after the ninth hole.

In its current form, “the existing Jackson Park golf course goes all the way from the north part down to the southeast part where the ninth hole [is located]. The ninth hole is as far away as it can be from the clubhouse, so playing nine holes was already problematic in Jackson Park,” Welling said.

The new golf pavilion on the map falls between Jeffrey Boulevard and 67th Street.

The concept design also calls for two underpasses under South Jeffrey Boulevard and at South Shore Drive. The underpasses were introduced in the early stages of the golf course design last year.

Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston and area residents check out posters showing changes in the latest proposal for the 18-hole redesign of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses during a public meeting on the proposal at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr., Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

The second underpass at South Shore, according to representatives from the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance would benefit golfers and the community at large who use the intersection to access the lakefront.

The CPGA is a newly formed non-profit that is charged with funding the project as well as creating pathways to expand youth golf programs.

“The underpass at 67th [ and South Shore Drive] is not new,” said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th). That is a horrible, dangerous intersection there have been a number of people killed. It’s a safety issue. I have been asking and begging for more than a decade. It is something that is well overdue.”

Hairston said “it is not because of the golf course, if the golf course helps us get to where we need to get then so be it,” she said.

Michael Kelly, Chicago Park District CEO and Superintendent, ahead of Wednesday’s meeting estimated the price point for the underpasses and said it could cost as much as $30 million for related infrastructure updates bringing the total for golf course renovations to $60 million.

“Whether we get this golf course done or not those underpasses need to happen,” Kelly said. “We have to leverage our funds; I’m not prepared to say who is going to pay for it. Like any other project I’m looking for outside sources of funds.”

Al DeBonnett, chair of the Jackson Park Golf & Community Leadership Advisory Council, speaks about community involvement in and support for the proposed 18-hole redesign of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses during a public meeting on the proposal at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr., Wednesday, January 31, 2018. -Marc Monaghan

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is evaluating another additional underpass. CDOT in its Lakefront Protection Ordinance application, this month, suggested the placement of a pedestrian underpass at the intersection of Hayes Drive/Cornell Drive and 63rd Street or on Hayes Drive between Richards Drive and Lake Shore Drive.

Roadway closures for both the Barack Obama Presidential Center and golf course renovations include Midway Plaisance (eastbound) between Stony Island Avenue, and Cornell Drive, Cornell Drive from 59th Street to Hayes Drive, Marquette Drive from Stony Island Avenue to Richards Drive, and northbound from Cornell Avenue from 67th to 65th streets.

The updated plan includes the creation of multi-use paths for pedestrians that will be situated alongside the golf courses.

For example, a multiuse trail detailed on the concept design map runs alongside each course starting at Marquette Drive and 67th Street and wrapping around the South Shore course. The East-West trail through Jackson Park will preserve the Marquette trail while connecting Woodlawn to the harbors, said the Park District.

A new pedestrian entrance will also be established to the South Shore Cultural Center at 67th Street leading to natural areas, the cultural center, and the beach.

The removal of natural areas that are within the grounds of the South Shore Cultural Center has been one of many issues voiced by residents over the last few months.

Previous golf design plans called for cutting off portions of the nature sanctuary. Welling said the updated design is adding double the acreage for natural areas.

“Roughly speaking there are five and a half acres of [the] natural area here at South Shore and this [referring to design plan] takes that to well over to 11 and a half [acres].

Lionel Nixon, a past president of the Coalition to Save the South Shore Country Club, holds a “Save the South Shore Nature Sanctuary” sign during a public meeting on the proposed 18-hole redesign of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr., Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

A pedestrian access point has also been included in the natural areas.

Both Kelly and Welling reiterated that the project is also about getting the future generation involved in the game of golf.

Another hot-button issue that has been discussed on end by residents is accessibility and whether or not local golf players will still have access to the course when renovations are complete.

Kelly maintains that the rates will stay consistent with the market rate and under $50 for Chicago residents to use the renovated course. Non-Chicago residents would pay quite a bit more to use the course.

“The last thing I want to do is price out all those good people,” Kelly said.

Lastly, the updated plan included an additional special event exit driveway for the South Shore Cultural Center that flows out onto 71st Street.

What’s next includes reconfiguring the driving range within the proposed framework scenarios. Kelly said the updated South Lakefront Framework Plan would not be published until the golf proposal is integrated within the framework plan with input from the community.

Last month, the Park District unveiled three new plans for the improvement of Jackson and South Shore parks with many old ideas included with the possibility of different locations for them and many new programs for activities and conservation.

The new South Lakefront Framework Plan, which will be implemented over the next 10 years, is an updated version of the 1999 framework plan that includes Jackson Park, Washington Park, and the South Shore Cultural Center.

The purpose of this project is to create a long-term plan for improvements for the parks over time it also functions as a planning tool for the community and the Park District.

Kelly said the updates to the golf course would take at least 18 months to complete, which is dependent on when the Park District breaks ground.

“I’m not going to give an end date yet,” Kelly said.