DUNNING — Every time Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) stopped by Merrimac Park, he was besieged with complaints about the lackluster playground at the park, which offered kids swings and a slide and not much else.
Come summer, those moms and kids may not recognize the playground near Irving Park Road and Naragansett Avenue.
“It is going to be real nice once it is completed,” Cullerton said. “It is a nice perk for the neighborhood.”
With $550,000 from the ward’s tax increment financing district, work is already underway on a complete renovation of the park. In addition to new playground equipment, landscaping, paving and lighting, the park district is adding a water play feature.
Maria Dmyterko Stone, the director of neighborhood parks and community relations for the Friends of the Parks, said she was excited about the new playground.
“It is going to be great for the community,” Stone said.
Another $100,000 from the TIF district will be used to complete the veterans’ memorial at the park by adding flagpoles near the 16-foot long granite memorial, which includes a carved eagle and medallions representing each branch of the Armed Forces.
The money will also repave a walkway near the memorial, which has been damaged by vehicle traffic, Cullerton said.
Former Ald. Tom Allen dedicated the memorial in 2009, which was also built with TIF district funds.
Cullerton said he hopes the playground renovation adds to the momentum of redevelopment in Dunning and the nearby Irving Austin Business District, which has recently seen a number of new businesses open.
“We’re starting to turn the corner,” Cullerton said.