Public weighs in on South Lakefront Framework Plan

Staff Writer

Earlier this month, the Chicago 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.

For example, the Chicago Park District proposed moving the present track and field further south from the Obama Presidential Center to just north of 63rd Street. The district showed three versions of the plan, including building a new track and field, replacing and expanding the track and field to include a turf field for soccer, and forming a new track and turf football field.

Proposed plans also include the Jackson Park Fieldhouse, 6401 S. Stony Island Ave., and show it renovated in its present location, rebuilt and moved to 63rd Street, or renovated and expanded in its current position to include a new gymnasium.

Louise McCurry, president of the Jackson Park Advisory Council, is excited at the possibility of a new field house for Jackson Park that is in need of renovation. The field house was built in the 1950s.

“It’s like Christmas. Everything that we have been asking for, for the last ten years got put into all those plans,” McCurry said. “They’ve considered everything we asked for.”

Of the three plans McCurry said the most attractive option is to have a brand new field house built at 63rd Street and Cornell Drive. Currently, for children to access the field house have they have to cross at 64th Street and Stony Island Avenue.

“My biggest complaint for years has always been our kids that have had to run across Cornell Drive and put their lives and limbs in danger,” McCurry said. “[It] provides a safe network for our kids so they’re not running across the road. It provides parking for parents so they’ll be able to bring their kids to events in the gym or on the fields.”

Other positives as noted by McCurry include repairing the shorelines.

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 Chicago Park District and will become the South Lakefront Framework Plan.

The district asked for commentary on the three versions of improvements to the parks and that the public could mix and match ideas from the plans.

The plans were presented as if the Obama Presidential Center were to be built in its present location along Stony Island Avenue and 59th Street, but versions of the plans did not include proposed merger of two community golf courses.

The Park District introduced three different plans incorporating the future vision of Jackson and South Shore parks in the wake of new development that is coming to the park, such as the Obama Presidential Center and other park-related improvements – except for the 18-hole championship course proposed for the Jackson and South Shore golf courses.

The district said that the three plans were birthed out of feedback from area residents who attended the eight previous meetings.

The public also weighed in on the plans themselves and elements of each plan and gave feedback to the Park District.

“We value this opportunity for the public to take a close look at the various options being weighed and to make their voice heard,” said Juanita Irizarry, executive director of Friends of the Parks. She added that, “it’s hard to know how much of any of these elements are possible without some sense of the cost and whether the Park District of the city knows how they will pay for it.”

Each of the three plans outlines where popular places such as the tennis courts, the dog park (Jackson Bark), track and field and or historic sites, such as the Iowa Building within Jackson Park will be relocated within the park and or renovated and repurposed.

Six categories make up each plan.

Active Recreation and Events – The plans include: playing fields and courts along Hayes Drive, basketball courts in their current area on Stony Island Avenue, a lighted baseball-football/soccer complex along Hayes, football/soccer fields in East Meadow.

Passive Recreation and Ecology – The plans feature: picnic areas around the Museum of Science and Industry, East Meadow and Harbor Peninsula; and a new nature playground at the South Shore Beach.

Water Use and Quality – The plans call for a new South Shore beach house, a new 59th Street Harbor building, deepening the Columbia basin for paddle boats, a breakwater to protect Outer Harbor, promenade along the south side of Inner Harbor; and water taxi stops at the 59th Street Harbor and Inner Harbor.

History, Arts, and Culture – The plan calls for improving the South Shore Cultural Center; building a music pavilion; renovating the existing driving range building, the Iowa Building, and the Burnham Pavilion; and relocating the Statue of the Republic to the Inner Harbor.

Connectivity – Plans include new trails, bike paths, and underpasses to improve connectivity within the park.

Vehicular Circulation and Parking – The plans call for expanded parking. A new parking lot would be created to support the Tennis Court complex at existing Bowling Green.