Jackson Park Watch Update – June 17, 2016

Greetings All!

This Update includes information about the status of the Darrow Bridge restoration and answers some questions about the dimensions of Project 120’s proposed pavilion as described at the May 31 meeting. We report on Monday night’s JPAC meeting, and to recommend a few things you might find of interest.

Next Steps on Darrow Bridge Restoration

We met on June 9 with Luis Benitez and Tanera Adams, the Chicago Department of Transportation staff who are managing the restoration of the Clarence Darrow Bridge (known to CDOT as the Columbia Bridge). They confirmed that the restored bridge will be open only for pedestrians, bicyclists and emergency vehicles. Interestingly, they told us that now all new pedestrian bridges are designed to accommodate emergency vehicles.

They explained the scheduled for the restoration as follows:

  1. As was announced in November 2015, CDOT has secured funding for the engineering study and design phases of the project, and has selected a consulting firm, Stanley Consultants. However, the work cannot actually begin until the legal department gives an okay with a “Notice To Proceed,” which has yet to happen.
  2. Once the NTP is given, Phase I (the engineering study phase) will begin. It will take 1 to 2 years with at least one opportunity for community input. The CDOT staff will notify JPW of the opportunities for community input, and we will publicize them widely.
  3. Phase II, the design phase, will follow, with additional opportunities for community input.
  4. Then of course, at long last, will come Phase III, the actual construction, which CDOT anticipates would begin, at the earliest, in spring 2019.

The good news is that there will be opportunities for community input, which JPW will know about and will publicize. The bad news is that we are talking about multiple years. This prompts questions about the wisdom of proceeding with other initiatives as long as the Darrow Bridge is closed.

How big was that?

At the May 31 meeting, Park District staff said that the footprint of the pavilion proposed by Project 120, said to be 15,000 square feet, was only as big as 2.5 tennis courts. This prompted some expressions of disbelief and a variety of calculations. We asked the Park District for clarification, and were told that the tennis court analogy was based on these assumptions:

  • Project 120’s proposed pavilion would be two levels, with 8,500 sq. ft. on the top level and 6,500 sq. ft. in a below-grade basement.
  • The tennis court measurement included open space surrounding the court in addition to the playing area proper.
  • The estimate of the size of the footprint excluded the area under the proposed wide eaves and the redone “music court,” with trees removed, where there would be seating for the outdoor music performances.

All in all, this way of describing the size of the proposed pavilion grossly underestimates the scale of the facility and its impact on the park. Clearly, a downsized, relocated pavilion is in order.

JPAC June 13 meeting

The JPAC meeting began with a lengthy power-point presentation of what JPAC has done and plans to do. Brenda and Margaret hope that they accomplish all they have described, past and present! Thanks to the other JPW stalwarts who were there as well. It was a looooong meeting.

Eventually the agenda moved to the proposal to amend the bylaws regarding the requirements for voting. Questions were raised as to the exact meaning of the proposed amendment. Various concerns and alternatives were presented. In the end, JPAC officials decided to bring a revised proposal to the next meeting, without clarity as to what that proposal might be.

You may be interested

We’ve updated our website to reflect the May 31 meeting, the fact that Project 120’s proposal for traffic across the Darrow Bridge has been taken off the table, and to reflect concerns about Yoko Ono’s “Skylanding” piece. You can take a look at http://jacksonparkwatch.org.

You may also want to read the presentation JPW made to the June 8 meeting of the Park District Board of Commissioners. It is available on our website on the newly revised “documents” page.

Finally, a report: the JPW open letter to Alderman Hairston was published in the Hyde Park Herald. You can read it at http://hpherald.com/2016/06/15/thanks-to-alderman-hairston/.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Jackson Park Watch
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