LAKEVIEW — After a decade of planning and negotiating, construction is finally underway on a park at 1230 W. School St., thanks to years of perseverance, community leaders said.
The 21,000-square-foot park, which will be the neighborhood's largest, was made possible in large part by a $1 million donation from the Chicago Cubs. It will be named Donahue Park after a former Cubs executive.
"We would not be here without the generosity of the Chicago Cubs," said Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) who spearheaded the project back in 2001 and held a groundbreaking ceremony Sunday afternoon.
Tunney was joined at the ceremony by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and benefactors including Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, Executive Director for the Trust of Public Land Beth White and Chicago Park District Supt. Michael Kelly.
"Never has one park had a bigger part of negotiation at my table than this," said Emanuel, who celebrated the opening of the newly renovated field house at Augusta Park in Humboldt Park earlier Sunday.
While the Lakeview project "did not happen overnight or come at a small price tag," Tunney said it will be a "true asset to the community for many years and many generations of families." It should be completed by summer 2015.
So far, the park has cost $4.1 million, according to a news release. In addition to the $1 million donation from the Chicago Cubs, the park has received support from the park district, Tunney and various private contributors like the Blacklidge family, who donated land valued at $675,000.
Jackie Early, president of the School Street Park Advisory Council, led a community fundraising campaign for the past two years. So far, she's helped raise $200,000 in donations.
Early said initial designs for the park were "fine" and "nice," but she and other council members thought the community deserved better.
"If you've seen our little ballpark called Wrigley Field or if you've been to our little block party called the Pride Parade, you know that Lakeview doesn't just do fine; we do amazing," Early said.
The new design includes playground equipment that will cater to toddlers and teenagers with its open turf field, shade structures and 40-feet interactive water structure featuring a number of iconic Chicago figures on the wall, she said.
Angie Keefner, 29, said the neighborhood is lacking in parks with water features, which makes this park especially exciting. Keefner is a full-time nanny, and donated money for a brick through the Chicago Nanny Group.
But the water feature and the other upgrades didn't "come cheap," Early add, adding that the Cubs increased their pledge once the new design was introduced.
"This will be iconic Lakeview in a couple of years," Early said. "I promise you."
Karen Thompson, who works at a trading firm, has lived across the street from the soon-to-be-park since 1989. She said there aren't a lot of choices when it comes to parks in the neighborhood, and she was forced to walk to Juniper Playlot Park when her kids were little.
Another Lakeview resident, Katrine Leuer, who has children ages 4 and 5, said she's "looking forward to having a place to go every day when [the kids] get home from school to burn off a little energy."
The Cubs and Wrigley Field are 95 percent owned by a trust established for the benefit of the family of Joe Ricketts, owner and CEO of DNAinfo.com. Joe Ricketts has no direct involvement in the management of the iconic team.
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