The Chicago Park District has broken ground on its new 17-acre headquarters in Brighton Park on the Southwest Side, after spending two decades located in downtown Streeterville.
The new headquarters will include office space for the district’s employees and a slew of amenities open to the public including a fitness center, turf athletic fields, a grand lawn and a spray pool. The project is set to be completed by winter 2023.
Officials celebrated the groundbreaking on Thursday as a symbol of the Lightfoot administration’s commitment to bolstering underserved neighborhoods. The mayor’s office identifies the neighborhood as one of the city’s top five “park-deficient” communities in Chicago.
“Ideally located right next to the Orange Line, this new park district project will give employees, residents and visitors, easy access to the incredible amenities it will offer, as well as stimulate economic activity within the Brighton Park community,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
The $65 million project will create 350 construction jobs, half of which are required to go to city residents, Lightfoot said. Nearly 200 park district employees will relocate to the campus, according to the mayor’s office.
The park district has been located in the Time-Life Building in downtown Streeterville since 2001. It relocated there from its previous headquarters at Soldier Field.
The big move comes as the Chicago Park District is under fire for its handling of alleged widespread sexual misconduct among its lifeguards, revealed in April by WBEZ.
The Park District’s inspector general has been conducting a “broad investigation” into complaints that dozens of workers at the city’s pools and beaches regularly committed “sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, workplace violence, and other criminal acts” – sometimes against minors.
Park district officials have not answered questions about the scope of the investigation or about their response to the issue, saying the probe was ongoing and they would comment further once the inspector general’s work “is complete and released to the public.”
Mariah Woelfel covers city government at WBEZ. You can follow her at @MariahWoelfel.