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Indian Boundary Park: Zoo Plans Unveiled, Burned Field House to Reopen

By Benjamin Woodard | December 6, 2013 10:12am
 The Chicago Park District design plans for the former zoo include new trees and a renovated zoo house.
Indian Boundary Park Plans
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WEST ROGERS PARK — In a one-two punch Thursday night, Chicago Park District officials unveiled design plans for the former Indian Boundary Park zoo and announced the reopening of the park's beloved field house.

The field house, at 2500 W. Lunt Ave., has been closed since a fire heavily damaged the Chicago landmark in May 2012.

After an extensive rehabilitation, the field house would reopen on Dec. 29, said Stephen Grant, a park district architect overseeing the project.

He said it would be nearly 100 percent rehabilitated, except for the iconic, intricate chandeliers once found in the field house's auditorium, which will need another month of work before being reinstalled.

Negotiations with the park district's insurance company delayed the restoration efforts, he said.

As for the park's former zoo house and enclosures, work should begin on an extensive, $300,000 renovation as soon as this spring, officials said.

The zoo house was home to a few chickens, a goat and a duck until recently, when the district decided to close the 80-year-old zoo for good.

Grant said the zoo house's animal pens had already been demolished.

When finished, the zoo house would have new flooring, exposed brick walls, an insulated roof covered with beadboard paneling and a glass garage-style door that opens into the new park, according to plans.

"It's going to be simple," Grant said. "We don't want to go over the top — this used to be a barn."

An old furnace would be re-used to heat the building, he said, but no air conditioning would be installed for cooling in summer months.

The old animal enclosures outside the zoo house would be would be transformed into a new park akin to an "outdoor conservancy," said Robert Rejman, the Park District's director of planning and construction.

"It's a much more intricate park space than you'll find anywhere else," he said.

The zoo's old swan huts would be renovated and made into toy houses for children to play inside, he said. Wood chip pathways would meander through the park full of newly planted trees, like white oak, white pine, weeping willow and crab apple.

New water sculptures would also be installed, according to plans.

The aviary, which was home to birds, would be transformed into a pavilion, Rejman said. A hard surface and seating would be installed under the enclosure, which is wrapped in ivy vines.

The existing "perimeter fence" around the former zoo area would be locked when the park closes, he said.

The district also plans to renovate the park's spray pool to resemble what's offered at Jesse Owens Park on the South Side, Rejman said.

Misting poles would be installed alongside "Dancing Bears," a sculpture-like water feature also found in Wicker Park.

The next public meeting about the design plans is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Indian Boundary Park Field House.