NORTHERLY ISLAND — The Park District board moved Wednesday toward renaming a new $19 million park for the neighborhood it rests in, Little Village.
At the request of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, the board moved Wednesday to initiate a 45-day notice period to rename what is now referred to as Park No. 553, at 2800 S. Sacramento Ave., as La Villita Park.
"It would mean a lot to us," said Karen Canales, of the Little Village organization. "It would represent us well."
The 21-acre park, on what is commonly referred to as the Celotex site, for the asphalt company the Park District said "polluted and degraded" the location, was part of a federal Superfund environmental cleanup completed in 2009. The Park District acquired the land two years ago.
The $18.9 million park (including the purchase price), which is still under construction, will eventually include two lighted artificial-turf fields, three other grass fields, a skate park, basketball courts, gardens, a large playground and a picnic pavilion.
"It's an amazing park," said Park District Supt. Mike Kelly.
"It's gonna be transformative," added board President Bryan Traubert. "It's astounding."
"I don't think we even know yet how much of a difference this is gonna make for our community," said Dr. Antonio Lopez, executive director of the Environmental Justice Organization. "The name itself captures the resilience of the community."
Park District spokeswoman Kiera Ellis said it would be "ideal" for the 45-day notice period to be completed in time for the park's dedication in December.
According to the Park District: "The new park will be extremely significant to the surrounding Little Village neighborhood. Not only does this area have one of the highest needs for open space in Chicago, but its residents long contended with the negative consequences of living near a polluted site."
Ald. George Cardenas (12th) supports the renaming.
The board also backed a similar 45-day notice period for renaming Jarvis Beach Park in Rogers Park for Marion Mahony Griffin, wife and colleague of architect Walter Burley Griffin. It was supported by several architecture groups and aficionados, as well as Ald. Joe Moore (49th) and the Australian consul general, as the Griffins designed the Australian capital of Canberra.
Moore said his office had looked into whom Jarvis Beach Park was named for and found little information. "We don't really know who Mr. Jarvis was," Moore said. "If this person did exist, he still has a street named after him."
The district also collected the National Gold Medal Award from the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration. The award was presented by former White Sox players Minnie Minoso, Carlos May and Ron Kittle, who have been active as Sox ambassadors in district events and activities.
The meeting took place in the Park District building that once served as the Meigs Field terminal.
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