NORTH LAWNDALE — The North Lawndale alderman who wants to create an outdoor music venue at Douglas Park revealed plans to park neighbors at a meeting Wednesday, showing off a concept that preserves part of a golf course and moves a nature area.
With a preliminary rendering, Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) and Chicago Park District project manager Michael Lange pitched the estimated $2 million plan for an 18-acre "West Side Ravinia" at the meeting Wednesday night.
Scott first confirmed plans for a "Ravinia-esque" music venue at Douglas Park, which would not include a music shell or a permanent stage, in May.
Instead, a concrete pad with electrical service would be built at the northeast corner of West Ogden Avenue and South Sacramento Drive — a ready-made area for pop-up concerts — and part of the park's golf area would be transformed into lawn seating for 5,000-7,000 people where West Siders "could bring out a picnic blanket, picnic basket and enjoy the sights and sounds."
From the staging area, music would project back toward the Douglas Park field house and lagoon, Scott said, and away from neighbors.
Hearing plans for the first time, Cata Truss, an Austin resident who has advocated for West Side parks for more than 15 years, said it was "disingenuous" to talk about installing a new music venue when parts of the park — including the field house stairs — are in disrepair.
"You haven't addressed those things that are more pertinent and it's unfair," Truss said. "I can't get behind another project that's going to come into this park, make money and not leave any here."
Marcus De La Fleur, a landscape architect that lives in North Lawndale, said that neighbors need to be involved in the design of the venue before plans are finalized.
"It's fairly broad right now as presented," he said. "There's always room for improvement."
Valerie Leonard, member of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council, said that she was pleased that the plan had been scaled back. At one point, Scott said that the lawn could potentially accommodate as many as 10,000 patrons.
"I think once [the alderman] starts talking to more people, there are going to be better ideas that evolve," Leonard said.
Responding to questions, Scott said that the plan is still in its early stages.
"As I've been committing my thoughts and my wishes and what I'd like to have happen, I've also been meeting with community members," he said. "We want to hear what it is that you want to see."
Park District CEO Michael Kelly is "very interested in the plan," according to Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, but funding has not been committed, Scott confirmed.
Scott is asking the Park District to commit $1 million to the project and the remaining cost of the project would likely be funded by a private donor, Scott said. Scott would not reveal the identity of any potential private donors, but said the donor is not affiliated with Riot Fest or Ravinia.
If all goes well with the project, Scott said the Park District could break ground on the music venue project next summer.
Chicago Park District project manager Michael Lange (left) and Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (right) pitched plans for an 18-acre "West Side Ravinia" at a meeting Wednesday night. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]
Part of golf course saved
The staging area would be built on an existing nature area close to the intersection, and part of the park's three-hole golf course would be razed in part to allow for sloped lawn seating.
Under new plans, at least one of the park's golf greens would be saved and a driving range would be restored, Scott said. Every summer, First Tee of Greater Chicago uses the course to teach area kids the game of golf.
Scott, a former Chicago Park District official, said the existing three-hole junior golf course at the site is used by less than 200 golfers each summer.
First Tee also financially invested in the installation of the golf course at Douglas Park about 15 years ago, according Lisa Quinn, executive director of the group.
A "Ravinia-esque" outdoor music venue could replace a nature area and part of a three-hole golf course at Douglas Park. [Submitted; DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]
Nature area moved
The concrete area where pop-up stages could be erected would be built at the northeast corner of Ogden Avenue and Sacramento Drive. Today, the land is a nature area designated as a bird and butterfly sanctuary.
The nature area would be replaced, Lange said, and moved west of the lagoon. A nature area with sprawling cattails that line the nearby lagoon would not be affected, Scott said.
"We are committed to putting that natural area back into the park," acre for acre, Lange said.
Eric Gyllenhaal, a member of the Chicago Ornithological Society who tracks bird populations at Douglas Park, said in May that birds use the nature area all year round, he said.
"There's birds that use that part of the park every season. I saw 41 bird species in the sanctuary this morning," Gyllenhaal said. "The Douglas Park sanctuary provid[es] shelter and food to fuel them up for the next part of their journey. If that's gone, stop-over migrants might spend the day stressed out and underfed."
Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) and Chicago Park District officials unveiled preliminary plans for the Douglas Park music venue at a meeting Wednesday. [Chicago Park District]
Riot Fest returns
Under plans, three-day punk rock fest Riot Fest would not be staged at the new site, Scott said, but the new music venue could be used as a single stage by the fest in the future. Returning to Douglas Park for a second year Sept. 16-18, Riot Fest will continue to be staged at the south end of the park.
"It is possible that Riot Fest could use [the new venue] for a main stage, but that's something they'd have to negotiate in the future," Scott said in May. "This is not something that we're building for them."
The freshman alderman would not field questions from constituents about Riot Fest.
"This is not a Riot Fest meeting. I am not fielding questions about Riot Fest," he said, urging constituents to make an appointment with him to discuss their issues with the punk music fest.
If successful, the new music venue would likely host the Chicago Westside Music Festival, a free music fest Scott founded, and community-driven events, including outdoor graduation ceremonies and church gospel celebrations.
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