By AARON GETTINGER
A $45 billion capital bill Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed last month is set to benefit some local parks and schools. Institutions in Hyde Park-Kenwood stand to benefit greatly.
In the 4th Ward, Kennicott Park, 4434 S. Lake Park Ave., and Nichols Park, 1355 E. 53rd St., got $300,000 and $200,000 for capital improvements from the Build Illinois Bond Fund to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Kennicott Park also got $50,000 to build a fitness center and Nichols Park $100,000 for a dog park. Gwendolyn Brooks Park, 4542 S. Greenwood Ave., got $20,000 for a pickleball court.
There is no specific timeline for the delivery of the funds, and the process will follow the normal procurement process. The funds are available, thanks to their inclusion in the capital bill, but the Chicago Parks District or local park advisory councils will have to apply to receive them.
“The Chicago Park District will work with the local community and elected officials to scope out the park improvements for each grant,” said spokeswoman Michele Lemons in a statement. “Once we receive an approved grant agreement from the state, the district can begin allocating funds from the capital bill to prioritize improvements to parks in neighborhoods throughout the city.”
Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., Hyde Park Academy, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., and Ray Elementary School, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., got $250,000, $150,000 and $100,000, respectively, for infrastructure and capital improvements.
In a statement, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) expressed thankfulness for the state government’s funding of capital improvement efforts and they would work with state agencies in moving the initiatives forward.
In a July 8 interview, Sen. Robert Peters (D-13th) said he advocated for specific projects in parks and public schools, in consultation with local aldermen, because of the utility they bring to the community. He observed the personal value of schools, parks and community centers during his difficult childhood as well as the decade since they last received capital funding, when the state last passed a capital bill.
“People should not feel like when they’re on a slide at a park, that they’re not going to get their arm ripped up,” he said. “People should be able to have a school that they’re proud of, that they feel a sense of ownership over.” Akin to the situation with parks, the individual schools can apply for the funds. “Principals and schools can say, ‘OK, I know I’ve got this funded.’; So they can go and reach out and say, ‘OK, I have a shovel-ready project ready to go, and I need the funding.”
“When I did a tour of schools, I asked what people needed in terms of capital funding. That shaped it,” Peters said. “Technically, CPS and the Park District can give even more money, and I think it’s important that, if you’re in the community and you want more money, that they can get that. Because $200,000 to do infrastructure spending and such things is not necessarily enough for some schools. They need a lot more.”
The 5th Ward got $400,000 for costs associated with infrastructural and other capital improvements, and Peters said the ward is still evaluating where it wants its infrastructural money to go. Additionally, the DuSable Museum, 740 E. 56th Place, received $200,000 for infrastructure and capital improvements.
The University of Chicago got a $100,000,000 grant for the construction of a new facility and acquisition of equipment with the Chicago Quantum Exchange, a cross-disciplinary and -institutional research institution based at the new Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering.