Chicago’s Garfield Park could soon get renovations to its Little League baseball field and improvements to the Conservatory’s indoor Children’s Garden, with the help of nearly $9 million collected from special taxing districts.
The West Side park is in line for the most money from $17.2 million dollars approved by a City Council committee Monday to improve parks across the city.
“This is helping to bring that park back to its true glory as the gym of the west side of Chicago,” said Ald. Jason Ervin, whose 28th Ward includes the massive green space. “We still have a little more work to do, but we’re definitely making great progress.”
The money, collected from tax-increment financing districts, was approved by a committee of aldermen and still needs approval from the full City Council, which is expected. The funds are supplemental to money already budgeted for capital projects by the Park District. So far this year, the City Council has approved about $5 million in TIF money for public parks.
The $8.9 million project at the West Side’s Garfield Park will include renovations of the Little League field, including new dugouts, turf and spectator bleachers, and the creation of an Industrial Arts Space in the fieldhouse, with gallery spaces and areas for making art. About $1 million of the TIF money will go toward an indoor Children’s Garden at the Garfield Park Conservatory, which will also benefit from private funds, according to Beth O’Reilly, Deputy Budget Director at the Park District.
Parks on the North Side of the city will get more than $7 million, most of which will go to areas along the North Branch of the Chicago River.
“Our rivers provide incredible opportunities for recreation, and solace and protection against global warming,” said Ald. Michele Smith, 43rd Ward, who took the opportunity to advocate for a public park near the new Lincoln Yards development closer to her Lincoln Park ward.
One of the Chicago River projects would allocate $2 million to create a new riverfront park behind Northside College Prep. Another allocates $3.5 million to Ronan Park to create community gardens and a gathering pavilion. Across the river from Ronan Park is River Park, where the city plans to dedicate $750,000 to build boat storage and improve water access. Finally, Kiwanis Park is in line for $800,000 to improve the shoreline and trail behind Von Steuben High School.
On the South Side, Douglass Park, in the city’s North Lawndale neighborhood, will get $600,000 to update the electrical and renovate the auditorium inside the park’s fieldhouse.
Ald. Michael Scott Jr., 24th Ward, said he wants the Park District to do more, and even offered discretionary money from his office to help close the gap.
“While I do support this, I would also challenge the Park District, there are some other items to take a look at over at Douglass Park, like the basement and the restrooms,” Scott said. According to documents posted on the Park District website, the sister agency has done several improvements at Douglass Park since 2011, including a pool rehab in 2016 and a current rehab of the mini golf course. But the document does not say how much any of the projects cost.
Also on the South Side, the city is allocating $350,000 in TIF money to create a small park on a vacant lot in Bridgeport, located at 3159 South Halsted Street, and another $300,000 to Jesse Owens Park for new lighting and paths.
Nearby Humboldt Park was in line for $1.1 million for electrical updates at both the fieldhouse and the boathouse, but Finance Committee Chairman Scott Waguespack, said Ald. Roberto Maldonado, whose 26th Ward includes Humboldt Park, requested to hold the item in committee and not take a vote.
Other parks to get TIF money from City Council in 2021 include:
$1.5 million for Austin Town Hall at 5610 W Lake St.
$1.4 million for West Pullman Park at 401 W 123rd St.
$850,000 for Donovan Park at 3609 S Lituanica Ave.
$345,000 for Wilson Park at 4630 N Milwaukee Ave.
$300,000 for Washington Park at 5531 S Martin Luther King Drive
$200,000 for Winnemac Park at 5001 N Leavitt St.
$125,000 for Brighton Park at 3542 S Richmond St.
$125,000 for Chase Park at 4701 N Ashland Ave.
$110,000 for Amundsen Park at 6200 W Bloomingdale Ave.
Becky Vevea covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @beckyvevea.