Jackson Park Watch Update – November 26, 2019

Greetings, allBest wishes for a joyful Thanksgiving and, if you are traveling, for safe and happy travels!

CBA affordable housing issues appear to advance but no movement on OPC review

Despite some delays and disappointments, the CBA Coalition has continued to press ahead and their persistence and that of Aldermen Jeanette Taylor and Leslie Hairston now appears to have paid off.  Mayor Lori Lightfoot has expressed support for the underlying issues of insuring affordable housing and avoiding displacement.   Representatives of the City’s Law and Housing departments met with the aldermen to discuss how to address technical legal problems with the CBA ordinance that was introduced in July.  We’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, there has been no forward movement in the federal reviews related to the Obama Presidential Center itself.  After the chaotic August 5 public presentation of the draft Assessment of Effects to Historic Properties, a twice-postponed follow-up meeting of Section 106 consulting parties has still not been rescheduled.  No information about a possible date is available

Further, a review mandated by the National Environmental PolicyAct (NEPA) of 1966 must also be completed as part of the federal review. The conduct of the NEPA review itself is unclear because responsibility for its management shifted from the Federal Highway Administration to the National Park Service in mid-2018.  Initial NEPA documents done by the FHWA and the City before then attempt to gloss over the mandatory 4(f) review assessing alternatives to the major road changes planned to accommodate Obama Foundation wishes.  In addition, numerous consulting parties have argued that the NEPA review should include a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) because of the scale of the impact the proposed OPC would have on Jackson Park and the adjacent neighborhoods.

It is unclear what comes next.  All told, it appears likely that many more months of waiting are in store.

What’s up with the proposed golf course merger?

Here again is a project – announced with great fanfare back in December of 2016! – that has failed to move forward.

First there were two years of boosterish presentations and attempted fundraising.  Then in December 2018 the Park District hired SmithGroup, an engineering consulting firm, to prepare design and construction documents for the merger of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses.  The 3-year contract anticipated that construction would begin in fall 2019 and the “golf package” would completed by fall 2021. 

Recently, however, Park District officials have reported that SmithGroup has been told to stop further work on the golf project because it was not clear when or if it was going forward.  Guiding the decision was the combination of weak fundraising by the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance, the uncertainty about key elements of the plan (e.g., the underpasses) as a result of the on-going federal reviews of the OPC plans, and the new, urgent focus by the Park District on shoreline problems along the entire lakefront.

The shift in focus and schedules was evident at the October 2019 meeting of the Park District board, when it approved a separate 3-year consulting contract with SmithGroup for development of Phase 1 of a Lakefront Strategic Action Plan that would address erosion problems along the entire Chicago lakefront, from Evanston to Indiana.   The work will include a comprehensive inventory analysis of existing conditions, a strategy for prioritizing improvements, and key ways to partner with other local, state, and federal agencies (e.g., US Army Corps of Engineers).  Future phases of the project will include detailed improvement strategies for specific sites along the lakefront, dependent on the availability of state and federal funding.  The seriousness of the shoreline problem has been highlighted in the Tribune and the Sun-Times , showing emergency work just launched in Rogers Park and noting plans for similar temporary fixes to be done on the south side, at 49th Street and 67th Street, in the next few weeks. 

So where does this leave the Tiger Woods golf project that is dependent on coastal improvements at South Shore?  Perhaps underwater, certainly in for a long delay.

MPAC officers re-elected after a battle

In what had become in effect a proxy war over the Obama Presidential Center, the incumbent officers of the Midway Plaisance Advisory Council were readily re-elected on November 13.  The MPAC connection to the OPC concerned the Obama Foundation’s proposal to utilize the east end of the Midway Plaisance for an above-ground parking garage, something that the officers and a majority of the membership opposed. A second connection was the subsequent attempt by the City of Chicago to designate that same area as “UPAAR replacement parkland,” a move that generated serious concerns by a large number of members and prompted the submission of a letter to the City objecting to any plan that would jeopardize the park’s listing on the National Register of Historical Places.  In response, a competing slate of officers had been nominated. 

The election meeting attracted close to 100 MPAC members and featured on-going attempts by some to delay or postpone the vote.  Less well known is that fact that those advocating delay had been lobbying Park District officials to cancel the meeting up until shortly before the meeting began, alleging various improper conduct by MPAC officers.  Upon review, the Park District officials had found that all notifications, procedures, and provisions for voting were in order, and the meeting proceeded as scheduled.


As always, we welcome your financial support.  You can contribute in three ways:

  • You can contribute via checks made out to Jackson Park Watch sent to directly to Jackson Park Watch, P.O. Box 15302, Chicago 60615. 
  • You can contribute via PayPal here.
  • You can contribute via checks from donor-directed funds sent to our fiscal sponsor Friends of the Parks at FOTP, 17 N. State St., Suite 1450, Chicago 60602, ATTN Kevin Winters.  Such checks should be made out to FOTP with a note stating they are intended for Jackson Park Watch. 

Once again, we thank you.

Brenda Nelms and Margaret Schmid
Co-presidents, Jackson Park Watch www.jacksonparkwatch.org

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