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An aerial view of McKinley Park, showing locations of proposed improvements on the east and west ends of the park. --Supplied photo

An aerial view of McKinley Park, showing locations of proposed improvements on the east and west ends of the park. --Supplied photo

Three plans vie for $1.5 million

Chicago Lawn, McKinley Park, Archer Park make their case

By Tim Hadac

Three Southwest Side public-land improvement proposals have been revealed as part of what Lightfoot Administration officials are calling the semi-finals of the Chicago Community Works Challenge

  • Claremont Academy playground, 2300 W. 64th St.
  • McKinley Park garden and skate park, 3700 S. Damen.
  • Archer Park ballfields, 4901 S. Kilbourn.

One of the three will be funded.

The Challenge offers a total of $10 million to support upgrades to public properties throughout Chicago.

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An aerial view of McKinley Park, showing locations of proposed improvements on the east and west ends of the park. –Supplied photo

One upgrade on the Southwest Side will be funded up to $1.5 million—and one in each of six other parts of the city.

Citywide, about 500 proposals were submitted.

The presentations, made by a mix of community advocates from Chicago Lawn, McKinley Park and Archer Park, were recorded by the Chicago Department of Planning and Development and have been posted in full at youtu.be/sSdl7GmWP-c.

Lightfoot Administration officials would not say exactly when winners will be announced, but said it would be in December.

Claremont has a playground, but it is on the other side of 64th Street and is said be limited in size and scope. It also is adjacent to a vacant house and an alley.

The land adjacent to the school is flat and grassy and is scarred with several dead trees.

The Claremont proposal—developed in large part with input from students at the grade school–would change that to a play area designed to stimulate learning and creativity. It would also include gardens tended by the children.

It would also be open to the public, outside school hours.

The McKinley Park plan is led by the McKinley Park Development Council and a coalition of community groups and individuals. It calls for improvements on the east and west sides of the park.

On the west side (near Western Avenue), the ice skating rink—currently dormant nine months each year—would be adapted for roller skating, skateboarding and rollerblading use in spring, summer and fall.

On the east side (at Damen Avenue), the Community Garden would be expanded by eight plots, the Mutual Aid Garden would be relocated next to the Community Garden, an intergenerational play garden would be created, and the resulting would be made accessible for wheelchair users and fenced off.

The Archer Park plan is sponsored by Archer Manor Little League.

It calls for an overhaul and renovation of the baseball/softball fields north of the fieldhouse. (A diamond on the south end of the park was renovated handsomely several years ago through the support of Cubs Charities and others.)

The diamonds and fields north of the fieldhouse often have little grass; and because of poor drainage, easily turn into mudfields after even ordinary rainfall. That causes cancellation of AMLL games, as well as adult softball games and soccer games.

All three proposals emphasized that the neighborhoods are worthy of funding, in part, because they serve communities that are largely non-white. The Claremont Academy and Archer Park advocates also promoted their projects as giving young people a safer place to play in areas where crime—including gang crime—is a concern.

More details on the funding competition can be found at chicago.gov/ChicagoWorksChallenge.

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