Jackson Park Watch Update – December 2, 2017

Greetings all,


·         OPC submission to Plan Commission pushed back, possible design changes to come, as Section 106 review process begins.

·         Park District schedules Open Houses for Dec. 7 and 11 on alternative recreation plans for Jackson Park – but OPC and proposed traffic changes still seen as driving Park planning.

Section 106 review process begins

On Thursday  the Sun-Times reported that the Obama Foundation would be delaying its submission to the Chicago Plan Commission for several months.  On Friday, at the kick-off meeting for the Section 106 review of the OPC and related proposals, there were signals that the Obama Foundation may be further changing its design plans:  Eleanor Gorski, Deputy Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development and the lead facilitator of the Section 106 review process, said that she understands that the Obama Foundation may submit “refined” design plans early in 2018.  We will be on the lookout and will let you know!

The lack of clarity about schedules, designs and site footprints, and scope of the review was evident throughout the busy, two-hour meeting at the South Side Y Friday morning.  The meeting started with confusion as the organizers had apparently anticipated a much smaller group.  While those registered as consulting parties were directed to a conference room at the Y that held about 100, many others attendees were directed across the street to an overflow room at the Jackson Park Field House, where they could view the session via a video stream.   Eleanor Gorski gave a very useful PowerPoint presentation outlining both the Section 106 and the NEPA reviews, which are coordinated but separate in purpose and process.   The first step in the Section 106 review is the definition of the “area of potential effect” and the development of an inventory of historic resources in that area.   This first step, now underway, is expected to take several months, and the full Section 106 process could extend until the fall.  The NEPA review will parallel the Section 106 process, but its schedule has not yet been announced.  The HeraldTribune, and Sun-Times provide useful summaries and perspectives on the meeting.

Overall, we learned that there would be an extended review period, with many steps and meetings to be announced , but – as the question period revealed – it was not clear exactly what is to be reviewed and why the scope of the review process has been defined as it has.   Among the many questions posed (but not fully answered):

·         How can any review go forward before the OPC site footprint and its design plan are settled?

·         How can the closure of Marquette Drive and the construction of underpasses for the golf project be included in the review without also including all of the plans for the golf course merger?

·         Why is the South Shore Cultural Center not included in the area under review?

·         Why are parts of Woodlawn and Hyde Park and the entirety of Promontory Point appropriately  identified as “Areas of Potential Effect,” but areas of South Shore just south of 67th Street – including the Jackson Park Highlands historic district — not so designated?

·         In identifying historic resources in Jackson Park, should not Cornell Drive and Hayes Drive, which trace Olmsted’s design, be included, as well as his design for the natural plantings?

Also noted – with raised eyebrows — was the potential for conflict of interests.  Although the Federal Highway Administration is the lead federal agency for the overall review, the Section 106 review process is being directed by representatives of the City’s Department of Planning and Development and the Department of Transportation,  the agencies that are officially advocating for the designs that are now under review. Although we have been assured that such an arrangement is not uncommon, skepticism and unease were evident.


Park District Open Houses set for Dec. 7 and 11 — MARK YOUR CALENDARS

Thursday, December 7, AND  Monday, December 11
South Shore Cultural Center
7059 S. South Shore Drive
6:00pm – 9:00pm

With unfortunately little advance notice, the Park District has announced two open houses to consider “options for recreational and cultural park uses.”  While still claiming that the South Lakefront Framework plan is under development, the language in its news release indicates that the OPC and the attendant road closure/realignments are driving and circumscribing the park planning process – even while those plans themselves are in flux – rather than the other way around.  Nonetheless your participation and input about options for ball fields, nature areas, and golf options are important.  We urge you to attend one of the meetings and to voice your opinions of the options presented.

From the Park District press release November 30:

As part of its ongoing South Lakefront Framework Plan process that began in June, the Chicago Park District announced today that it will host another two community meetings to present and solicit community feedback on potential park uses and capital improvements to Jackson and South Shore Parks. These meetings will focus on options for the rest of the park systems, building on plans for the Obama Presidential Center and traffic mitigations that were previously presented to the public.

The meetings will be focused solely on the options for recreational and cultural park uses; no new information will be presented about the Obama Presidential Center itself or proposed transportation improvements. The meetings will be held on December 7 and December 11 at the South Shore Cultural Center, located at 7059 S. South Shore Dr., from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.


Thank you again! 

We have received generous tax-deductible donations from many and are grateful for the confidence placed in us.  We are putting the funds to work in the form of expert assistance for what we do.  As these reviews move forward, we will continue to gratefully accept checks sent to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615.


As always, feel free to share this Update widely.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch

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