By AARON GETTINGER
The Chicago Park District held two community meetings to discuss the South Lakefront Framework Plan, the planned large-scale reworking of Jackson and South Shore parks coinciding with the construction of the Obama Presidential Center, March 13 and 14 at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Drive.
Landscape architect Gregg Calpino of SmithGroupJJR, the framework planning team’s lead firm, summarized the envisioned changes.
“What we’re showing here tonight is striking a balance,” said Calpino at the March 13 meeting, saying that the framework drafters had considered perspectives from community members, park design experts, ecology groups, yacht clubs and harbor groups, the parks’ advisory councils and park district staff. “This is a vision, not to be achieved in a day or a year. It’s a guide, an ongoing effort. Some plans and designs will continue to evolve.”
Calpino cast the effort as a “general update” of the 1999 framework plan, saying the goals are to serve both the local community and visitors, to steward environmental integrity and to “renew and maintain park legacy.” He said the parks will maintain an emphasis on unstructured, multi-purpose “hanging out places” and that courts and playing fields will be clustered together.
“From the start, this has been a water-based park system,” Calpino said. He stressed the 10-mile stretch of lakefront’s connectivity and emphasized plans to increase water quality. The lagoons themselves are slated to be the parks’ irrigation supply.
Aside from the extensive reworking of roads through Jackson Park, including the closing of a segment of Marquette Drive, Calpino said that existing parking lots would be reworked for greater efficiency and relayed investments in mixed trails, sidewalks, nature trails and boardwalks.
As to the uniting of the nine-hole South Shore Park golf course and the 18-hole Jackson Park course into a single unit designed by pro golf player Tiger Woods’ firm TGR Design, Calpino promised a course the communities deserve and that “premier does not mean inaccessible.” The audience responded with applause.
When Calpino concluded the March 13 presentation and urged those in attendance to give comments or questions in writing, protesters from ETHOS (Environment, Transportation, Health and Open Space) stood, chanted “We won’t pay for PGA!” and unsuccessfully demanded a live question-and-answer forum for their concerns.
“We’re here because we really oppose the PGA plans for Jackson Park,” said ETHOS protester A. Anne Holcomb, a resident of South Shore. “We’ve already given up 22 acres of Jackson Park for the Obama Presidential Center—which we support—but we feel that the rest of the park should be for the residents.”
Norman Bell, who lives in Hyde Park, expressed concern that the golf course would cut into the parks’ natural areas.
“We’re both stewards for the public meadow, so we’re very concerned with maintaining that space,” said Hyde Park resident Gail Parry.
Hyde Parker Chick Hoes, however, said that he and his golfing buddies were looking forward to the redevelopment both for their sport and for their expectation of increased economic activity.
“If we can get a professional tournament here, that’s a lot of money for the city,” he said. “The restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, cabs, Uber—everybody gets paid. And we need that economic push. I’m looking forward to it.”