IN THIS UPDATE:
· Still waiting for community input opportunities for the Obama Presidential Center and golf course “transformation”
· Actual new information on the Darrow Bridge reconstruction
· That new economic development corporation
· Shared concerns
Obama Foundation plans for community input still unclear
Although several public events have taken place, no opportunities or plans for meaningful community input have materialized as yet. Further, at the March 28 invitation-only event billed as a “community meet-and-greet reception” for the Obama Presidential Center architects, Obama Foundation V.P. for Civic Engagement Michael Strautmanis signaled an even longer wait for actual information on plans, saying “the president is still exploring ideas.” For more, check the Tribune article by architecture critic Blair Kamin (http://www.chicagotribune.
Golf course “transformation” timeline uncertain
There is also no news about the proposed golf course re-design. At the March 18 meeting of Alderman Hairston’s Jackson Park/South Shore Golf and Community Leadership/Advisory Council, representatives of the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance (CPGA) reported that the engineering study by SmithGroupJJR, which is behind schedule, may be completed by the end of March. The golf course design firm, TGR Design, will then adjust its initial ideas (never revealed to the public) to fit the engineering data and produce a conceptual design. At that point – presumably late April – the Park District and the Alderman will, we hope, organize a public meeting to present the design to the community. Obviously, more than one meeting will be needed. Information on related impacts such as traffic and parking will also be required in order for the community to fully assess the proposal.
On a related point, a March 8 Sun-Times report, quoting CPGA principal Michael Ruemmler extensively, revealed that fund-raising for the golf course project is lagging, but that Ruemmler expects it will accelerate once the design is revealed (see http://chicago.suntimes.com/
Actual news on the Darrow Bridge!
In contrast, there was actual and positive news about the reconstruction of the Darrow Bridge at Alderman Hairston’s 5th ward meeting on March 28. CDOT Assistant Chief Engineer-Bridges Luis Benitez reported that Phase One, engineering, is now underway and should be complete within the year. Phase Two, design, will follow and should take no more than a year. Phase Three, construction, will then start in 2019. Funding is on hand, and the project is expected to be completed.
Benitez said that this presentation was the first of several. JPW will share any information it has about future meetings about this project.
That new neighborhood economic development corporation
As noted in the March 13 JPW Update, plans for a new economic development corporation for Woodlawn, Washington Park, and South Shore are underway, fueled by start-up funding from the Chicago Community Trust. Members of the initial board are expected to be representatives from the University of Chicago, the City, the Obama Foundation, the Washington Park Consortium, the Network of Woodlawn, and South Shore Works, as well as other community members to be selected through an open application process. (See www.wwpss.org for information.) JPW is not involved in on-going discussions about this issue, but we are paying attention to the potential impacts on Jackson Park itself. We note that some concerns about transparency and benefits to the broader community have been raised.
Shared concerns: Friends of the Parks Open Letter on Jackson Park
Many of you may have read the Open Letter on Jackson Park from Juanita Irizarry, Executive Director of Friends of the Parks, which appeared in the March 22 issue of the Hyde Park Herald. Unfortunately the Herald did not have the space to print the full statement, which is available on the FOTP website (https://fotp.org/issues/
Shared concerns: Keep Grant Green
We have heard from leaders of Keep Grant Green, a downtown community group formed in response to concerns that ever-increasing use of Grant Park for commercial and tourist activities has limited green space and precluded use of the park by local residents. Like Jackson Park, Grant Park is also both a neighborhood and a regional park, but there the scale has been tipped in the direction of tourism and revenue-generating uses. It is an object lesson for what we do not want to happen to Jackson Park. You can explore the website and Facebook page that outline their concerns at http://keepgrantgreen.com/ and https://m.facebook.com/
Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid