With new architectural designs released Wednesday, organizers with the School Street Playlot say the latest conceptual renderings are almost perfect.
Designs for the park at 1230 W. School St. are a far cry from what was presented to the public just four months ago. Coming in at more than 21,000-square-feet, the space is slated to become the largest playlot in Lake View.
School Street Playlot Advisory Council President Jackie Earley said she sat down with the Chicago Cubs Wednesday to review the latest renderings. As a major funder of the park, the Cubs have been working with Earley almost every step of the way.
“I went to the Cubs’ office yesterday, we talked about the new designs and they have all of the key elements that we wanted, so we are pumped,” Earley said.
“We presented (the designs) last night at the Park Advisory Council Meeting and it was met with a lot of enthusiasm,” Earley wrote later in an email. “While there are a few tweaks to come, I'd say we are 95 percent of the way there.”
"As we move forward on our project to restore Wrigley Field, we’re happy this park will be a clear representation of our commitment to the community."
The entire park is estimated to cost upwards of $2.5 million. Between land donated by Craftsman Planting & Tinning and monetary commitments from Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), the Chicago Park District, Sen. John Cullerton and the Cubs, the team effort is making construction possible.
However, some accuse Cubs officials of using the park as a bargaining chip by withholding their $750,000 pledge until a deal is reached regarding the $300 million Wrigley Field redevelopment. Cubs Vice President of Communications and Community Affairs Julian Green couldn’t say when the team would write the check, but says they continue to pledge the money for the park’s construction.
“The Cubs are working very closely with the School St. Advisory Council and Alderman Tunney to finalize a design and join our neighbors, as well as the Chicago Park District and local businesses and elected officials in supporting this significant fund raising effort,” Green said in a statement. “We have continued to pledge our support for this great addition to our community and help the advisory council get the park they want built. As we move forward on our project to restore Wrigley Field, we’re happy this park will be a clear representation of our commitment to the community.”
Groundbreaking for the new park is still expected to happen in late spring or early summer, Earley said. The park still needs to undergo an environmental study and be cleaned, as the lot was once home to a factory.
In addition, the Chicago Park District needs to approve the designs, and the land needs to be transitioned to Ald. Tunney from Openlands, a Chicago organization that protects public parks and forest preserves.
"Two-thirds of the land has already been secured and is in the Park District portfolio," said Erin Duffy, Tunney's director of communication. "The remaining one-third of the land we are waiting to be deeded over. That process should hopefully be completed by the end of the month."
Lastly, the massive fundraising effort needs to move full steam ahead.
Earely says the advisory council already raised more than $56,000, a large chunk of money, but still a long way from the $200,000 goal. That’s why she’s already planning a Valentine’s Day event, a major event in spring, and a neighborhood event with help from Chris Festa, the owner of Festa Parties, which organizes TBOX.
Festa is the playlot’s third largest donor, already contributing $7,500 to the initiative. Earley says donations like Festa’s need to keep rolling in.
“We have more fundraising to do still,” Earley said. “This isn’t the situation where the community can sit back and do nothing. We want this trophy that shows the community working together toward one goal.”