Jackson Park Watch Update -April 2, 2017

Greetings all,


·         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.com/news/obamalibrary/ct-obama-library-kamin-met-0328-20170328-story.html).

 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/news/fundraising-slows-for-jackson-parksouth-shore-golf-course-merger/).

 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/policy/obama-presidential-library-2/ ).  This is a thoughtful account that puts the ambitious but unconnected proposals of the last two years in context and makes a commonsensical call for comprehensive planning instead of piecemeal change.  We recommend it for your review.

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/keepgrantgreen.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid

Jackson Park Watch
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Jackson Park Watch Update – March 6, 2017

Greetings all,

More join in the call for a transparent and comprehensive planning process for Jackson Park, a process grounded in robust community input.  See What can you do? (below) to keep the momentum rolling.

The end of the month brought two promising developments:

Alderman Hairston steps up:  At her monthly 5th Ward meeting on February 28, Alderman Leslie Hairston spoke of her hopes and intentions for the Jackson Park/South Shore Golf and Community/Leadership Advisory Council that she has recently formed.  Hairston reaffirmed her recent statement to the Obama Foundation, stressing that there has to be comprehensive and coordinated planning for Jackson Park as a whole.  According to Hairston, the Advisory Council will serve as two-way conduit of information between her and neighborhood residents regarding all of the many changes being proposed for Jackson Park and the South Shore Cultural Center.  The council’s first session last week featured a general discussion, and the only substantive news was that the Park District’s consultant is behind schedule in preparing a preliminary design for the golf course. We will report to you as the Advisory Council’s work becomes clearer.  There may be opportunities for you to join in the process through topical subcommittees.

Preservation Chicago sounds the alarm:  Jackson Park and the South Shore Cultural Center have been put on Preservation Chicago’s 2017 list of the most endangered sites in Chicago.  Recounting the important legacy of these parks and the threats to them represented by private-interest groups with no public accountability, Preservation Chicago aims to provide a preservation-oriented voice in the conversation about the future of the parks. We urge you to read the full statement on-line.  We applaud the assessment of the issue by Preservation Chicago and welcome its valuable input.

Where is the Park District?  What about the Obama Foundation? These important new actions are supported by the repeated calls by Friends of the Parks for comprehensive planning, by the Jackson Park Advisory Council’s newly-established  and soon-to-meet coordinating committee,  by the ongoing discussions led by Dr. Byron Brazier about Woodlawn’s aims for Jackson Park, and by parallel conversations in South Shore and Washington Park.   Yet to date the Park District and the Obama Foundation, the two 800-pound gorillas in the game, are on the sidelines or watching from behind the curtain.

What can you do?  E-mail Obama Foundation’s Vice President for Civic Engagement Michael Strautmanis (mstrautmanis@obamapresidentialfoundation.org.  Send your message to Park District CEO Michael Kelly (michael.kelly@chicagoparkdistrict.com) and Park District Board President Jesse Ruiz (Jesse.Ruiz@dbr.com).  Ask them to step up, engage the Jackson Park community, and join the conversation about comprehensive planning for the future of the park.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid

Jackson Park Watch
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Jackson Park Watch Update – February 19, 2017

Greetings all,

Good news! Others are joining JPW and Friends of the Parks to demand development of a coordinated, comprehensive plan for the future of all of Jackson Park. We note two recent developments of particular importance:

The Jackson Park Advisory Council, at its February 13 meeting, voted to establish a coordinating committee to consider two current major initiatives – the Obama Library and the golf course renovation. The committee will include representatives from the Park District, the Obama Foundation, the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance,  Chicago Department of Transportation, Alderman Hairston’s 5th Ward Office, JPAC, and Jackson Park Watch.   While this cannot be a substitute for a well-resourced, staffed and open community input process, we welcome this action and look forward to participating in the discussions.

On February 15, Alderman Hairston issued an open letter to the Obama Presidential Center calling upon the Obama Foundation to actively engage the community in discussions about its evolving plans.  Hairston called particular attention to the need to coordinate planning for the OPC and for the proposed renovated golf course:  “They should be planned together.  They are both part of Jackson Park and residents would like to have a comprehensive picture of how transportation, park use, and recreation will be addressed.”    The Alderman’s statement was covered also in the Tribune and DNAInfo.  You may want to thank Alderman Hairston and offer additional comments at ward05@cityofchicago.org.

We applaud both of these steps and hope they that lead to a planning process for Jackson Park that is both more transparent and fully open to broad community review and input.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid

Jackson Park Watch
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