After almost 10 years of planning, organizing and fundraising, Lake View’s largest park is one step closer to development after local residents held a cleanup event to prepare for construction.
The School Street Playlot, located at 1230 W. School Street, is slated to break ground in 2013. Sitting on four lots of land in the heart of Lake View, the almost 20,000-square-foot park has been one of Ald. Tom Tunney’s (44th) goals for 10 years, and its on track to soon becoming a reality.
Jackie Earley, president of the School Street Playlot Advisory Council, says the cleanup day on Sept. 23 revitalized the community’s interest in the project after what seems like a never-ending stretch of planning and approvals.
“The clean up date when great,” Earley said. “We had a lot of new neighbors out there that have never been there before. It was really an energizing event because sometimes you can feel like you’re in a bubble when you work with the same 10 people every time, thinking you’re the only ones making something happen… People walking by stopped to just see what was going on.”
The cleanup day is the latest in a string of fundraising and volunteer events the advisory council has planned to move the project ahead at full throttle. The next is Hawthorne Neighbors’ Mega Garage Sale in Lake View where all proceeds will go toward funding the park.
"When it comes to the alderman, the Chicago Cubs and the City of Chicago, there’s always negotiations and different leverage that they can yield.”
But Earley and her team aren’t alone. The School Street Park is estimated to cost upwards of $2.5 million, and area officials have been instrumental in securing the land and cash needed to make it a reality.
Between a large chunk of money set aside over the years from Ald. Tunney, a $500,000 commitment from the Chicago Parks District, another $500,000 commitment from Sen. John Cullerton and a 5,000-square-foot land donation from neighboring business Craftsman Planting & Tinning, the park will be a team effort.
Part of that team is also the Chicago Cubs. Earley says in the past, whenever Wrigley Field would host a concert, Ald. Tunney would receive a sum of money from the Cubs because of the impact a crowd that size has on the neighborhood. However, in recent years, the ward has not collected that money, asking that it rather be put aside for the School Street Park.
But although the Cubs say they’ll subsidize the cost of construction, Earley says she thinks the park is being used as a bargaining chip for larger negotiations, and she’s still waiting for the check.
“Chicago Cubs have basically pledged $750,000 to the alderman,” Earley said. “…I feel like every conversation they have, everyone knows they will (write the check in spring), but it all comes down to timing. When it comes to the alderman, the Chicago Cubs and the City of Chicago, there’s always negotiations and different leverage that they can yield.”
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In the meantime, Earley says the advisory council and Ald. Tunney are moving toward a groundbreaking in the spring of 2013 while negotiations with the Cubs regarding unrelated issues continue. That will give the council time to raise the roughly $200,000 needed for extra features and ongoing maintenance.
“That’s the support money for future programming, ongoing maintenance and if the community wants something – specifically for an enhanced water feature or additional shade,” Earley said. “Sun and water are the comment themes that we keep hearing about.”
The renderings, paid for by the Cubs, are still of preliminary designs of the park that don’t yet include the fourth donated lot from Craftsman. However, at this time the park will feature things like kid-friendly water sprayers with a soft play surface, shaded picnic and play areas, plenty of landscaping and playground equipment. In the new donated lot, the group plans to keep it open and spacious for future programs and events.
Residents interested in donating to the cause, or looking to volunteer, can visit the School Street Playlot website.