Jacob Playlot Renovation Takes First Steps – UPDATE x3

By Mike Fourcher | Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jacob Playlot sits next to grade-level El tracks and the Chicago River. Credit: Mike Fourcher.

UPDATE 1/6 4:18p - CTA Spokesperson Noelle Gaffney says that CTA, “has not agreed to a lease.”

4:35p - As a further clarification, Gaffey says, “Any or lease or sale of property has to go through a formal procurement process. And we have not begun one on that location.”

4:58p – Ald. Schulter’s spokesman Robert Rawls called soon after to add: “Ald. Schulter is working the CTA and Chicago Park District to achieve this goal but no deal or agreement has been finalized at this point and time.”

The Friends of Jacob Playlot is starting to lay the groundwork for expanding the playground at the corner of Leland and Virginia avenues.

Last October the Chicago Transit Authority agreed to lease a vacant lot between the playlot and the El tracks to the Chicago Park District.

Soon thereafter Ald. Eugene Schulter’s office managed to earmark $100,000 of Park District funds to pay for the lease.

Now Nate Hutchinson, who leads Friends of Jacob Playlot, has to figure out how much money is needed to renovate the park – and then raise it.

“It’s hard to say just yet, because we don’t know how much will be needed to make the [new] site usable,” says Hutchinson.

But first the new space next to the El tracks has to be assessed. The city commissioned a soil study of the leased CTA land, but as of mid-December the results were yet to come back.

Friends of Jacob Playlot has not started planning what the new, expanded park would look like. Once the soil study comes back, they hope to build a community garden, “as a way to build community and develop a vision for the overall site,” says Hutchinson.

Hutchinson figures his group will need to raise about $5,000 to pay for the garden’s new soil and raised beds.

“We don’t know what the scope of the ‘whole’ project is yet,” said Hutchinson.

“Getting control and use of the vacant lot is the first step,” he said. “Then we’ll begin to engage in a community discussion about the vision for the whole site.”

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