What exactly is it that Jackson Park Watch is not in favor of?

To the Editor:

I am convinced now that the leadership of Jackson Park Watch is not in favor of the Obama Presidential Center in the park, the merger/expansion of Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses, and many of the planned roadway changes to support both projects.  Clearly, JPW knows there would be a public uproar from local residents if it outright opposed the Obama Foundation’s decision to locate OPC in Jackson Park. So they “support” it but bash all accompanying plans.

Starting with the first paragraph of its latest update (see email below), JPW claims it supports OPC but complains about not knowing until May about possible roadway changes.  How could that be?  The very announcement of the OPC coming to Jackson Park should have alerted JPW to potential roadway improvements/changes.  The same is true for the golf course merger.  How could CDOT plan roadway changes before the architects designed conceptual plans for the OPC or golf course merger?

DOES CLOSING CORNELL ACTUALLY ADD PARKLAND? I am in support of the idea that any parkland taken away by OPC should be replaced but do not feel the replacement of parkland has to be in Jackson Park.  There are plenty of vacant, city-owned lots on the south side and having more parks (playlots and/or athletic fields) inside our neighborhoods would help beautify current blighted areas.  Further, I do not see the rush to determine where those parks/fields will be located.

Furthermore, I think it is great that the Obama Foundation has agreed to pay for construction of the proposed parking garage at Midway Plaisance and to top it with green space (more park). It addresses the issues of parking, who will pay for it, and replacing (underutilized and often flooded) parkland.

WHAT WOULD IT COST? WHO WOULD PAY?  Obama Foundation is paying for OPC and now the needed parking garage.  Private donors are funding lion’s share of golf course merger.  Given these developments which many in the surrounding communities support, the City (ultimately taxpayers) can expect to pay for some infrastructure improvements to support such highly desirable projects.

WOULD IT WORK?  AND WHAT IF IT DOESN’T?  In this paragraph, Jackson Park Watch states this process has been rushed and suggests planning should halt until CDOT convinces them that the roadway plan works in the short and long term.  Conversely, JPW says this is a plausible roadway plan that can work.  My response is: If the traffic and population grow beyond what is envisioned today, new plans will be developed and executed as CDOT is doing now.

IS IT A CHICAGO-STYLE “DONE DEAL”?  Here JPW makes the assumption that the planning for these projects and roadway changes have been in the works for some time – a contradiction to the project being rushed.

Details and Questions about the CDOT Proposals   This section is the only part of the newsletter that is outlined well. The message to us is clear:  review the proposals and ask questions.

Alisa Starks
Inner City Entertainment