As early as fall 2013, residents of West Lakeview could be celebrating the opening of the much-anticipated School Street Park, 1230 W. School St., Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said at a meeting Wednesday night.
About 20 residents attended the forum, held at Shiel Park fieldhouse (3505 N. Southport Ave.), to view initial designs of the proposed park. “This will be the first new park in many years in the ward at this scale,” Tunney said. “We will need help in designing the park and creating community buzz. I am confident this will become a reality.”
That confidence is welcome news to Will DeMille, president of West Lakeview Neighbors. “Our group has been working for seven-plus years on getting a park in the area,” DeMille said. “Families have been going outside the area to find a park. With more families in the neighborhood, there is a real need for the park.”
Flanked by three design renderings for the park, Tunney outlined the process for moving School Street’s construction forward. With a fundraising goal of $50,000 to cover maintenance and other expenses and designs in their nascent stage, much of the meeting focused on ways to gain community feedback on the proposed park as well as strategies to raise money. Representatives from the Chicago Park District and a representative from Friends of the Park discussed various playground equipment options, as well as the importance of creating an advisory council to serve as a liaison with neighbors.
According to the alderman, the Chicago Cubs have agreed to serve as general contractor of the park and will be responsible for the actual build-out. Created in conjunction with the Cubs, the preliminary designs for the park include two play lots: one for children up to age five and another for children ages 5 to 12. Designs also included a water feature, a passive area with seating and a moveable train. Tunney said he wants to have permit drawings for the park by the end of the year so construction can begin in spring 2013.
Right now, School Street will be 14,000 square feet with about 5,000 square feet to be added from an adjacent parking lot owned by Craftsman Plating. The alderman said there is a verbal agreement to acquire the land from the company. An environmental rendition of the parking lot should cost less than $100,000, Tunney said. “We are working with the Chicago Park District’s law department on getting the land,” he said. Even without the final piece of land, Tunney said plans for the park will go forward, perhaps implemented in phases.
Part of making School Street a reality is communicating to the public that the park, and all its benefits, are no longer just a pipe dream. “The alderman was quick to secure a lot, and a lot of people weren’t aware this was happening so fast,” DeMille said. “Now that it is happening, people are starting to take notice.”