Little Village Could See Prettier Jail Area, Bike Lanes With New Green Plan

By Chloe Riley on November 21, 2013 6:36am 

 Rendering of proposed green space plans along an undeveloped prairie space at Western Avenue and the Chicago River. A community meeting was held Tuesday to gauge resident interest in several green initiatives in the Little Village neighborhood.  
Rendering of proposed green space plans along an undeveloped prairie space at Western Avenue and the Chicago River. A community meeting was held Tuesday to gauge resident interest in several green initiatives in the Little Village neighborhood.  
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CMAP Chicago

LITTLE VILLAGE — Beautifying the space around Cook County Jail and creating a bike path from 26th Street to the Chicago River are two areas being targeted as part of a "Green Healthy Neighborhoods" land use plan for Little Village.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning began soliciting input this week on the land use plan, which includes proposed green spaces center around a lot near 31st Street and Kedzie Avenue, a recently abandoned Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad track that stretches from 26th Street to the Chicago River, and several patches of undeveloped prairie in hard-to-reach sites along the southern bank of the riverfront along Western Avenue.

In addition, there’s also a move to beautify the Cook County Jail perimeter at 3015 S. California Ave. through the addition of sidewalks and trees.

At a meeting Tuesday, residents and community groups had plenty of input on which streets would work best for modification to be more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.

At one table, residents were discussing potential streets that could be made safer for pedestrians and bikes, and in doing so act as connectors to the parks and green space.

Resident Erica Rangel, 26, pointed to 33rd Street, which she said has a slower traffic flow and could make for a good bike path.

“We don’t have the space to just create green space all over the place now, so I guess connecting things to existing open spaces makes the most sense at this point,” Rangel said. 

Plans for the $10 million Celotex Park at 31st and Albany Avenue also came up in discussion Tuesday night. Construction is set to begin on the 22-acre park, which will have at least two lighted artificial turf soccer fields and two basketball courts in addition to a skate park, sledding hill, and walking and jogging trails.

But several community groups have pointed to the lack of a field house, which the park is unable to sustain due to an inability to dig down due to layers of pollution from the former asphalt factory that occupied the site.

“We don’t have a lot of empty space, and so you have to take advantage of what you have,” said Andrea Muñoz, a 39-year resident and member of Enlace community group. There’s things you can do, but I think we have to settle for less than ideal.”

There was also a meeting in Pilsen on Monday to discuss green spaces in that neighborhood.

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