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Could New Riverfront Park Be Coming To City's Old Fleet Management Lot?

By Ted Cox | March 7, 2017 1:41pm | Updated on March 8, 2017 11:51am
 An aerial view of Gutmann Leather Tannery site and the other industrial sites along the Chicago River shows the since-razed Finkl Steel plant to the left and the city's Fleet Management lot in the upper right corner.
An aerial view of Gutmann Leather Tannery site and the other industrial sites along the Chicago River shows the since-razed Finkl Steel plant to the left and the city's Fleet Management lot in the upper right corner.
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C.H. Robinson

WEST TOWN — The Fleet Management lot near Goose Island that the city offered for sale last week became embroiled in the North Branch Industrial Corridor Modernization Plan Tuesday when a community leader suggested it could be the site of a much-needed new park in the area.

Ted Wrobleski, vice president of the Sheffield Neighborhood Association, mentioned the 18-acre lot at 1685 N. Throop St. as a potential park site at a community meeting on the North Branch Corridor plan Tuesday morning.

"The two things we're most concerned about is transportation and also getting some open land for a park or maybe more than one park," Wrobleski said. He added that local residents were asking for "not just a riverwalk or something like that, but a real, substantial place to be used for ball diamonds and soccer fields and things like that."

 Sheffield Neighborhood Association Vice President Ted Wrobleski talks with consultant Linda Goodman at Tuesday's public meeting on the North Branch Industrial Corridor Modernization Plan.
Sheffield Neighborhood Association Vice President Ted Wrobleski talks with consultant Linda Goodman at Tuesday's public meeting on the North Branch Industrial Corridor Modernization Plan.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

He said the Fleet Management lot "does have lots of space" and would be a prime spot for development, but added that at very least some of it should be set aside for a park.

In offering the lot up for sale last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said proceeds would pay to upgrade city's 311 system, as well as funding the actual physical move of the lot to Englewood.

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), who has led calls for a major park to be included in the North Branch Industrial Corridor Modernization Plan, said at Tuesday's meeting that the Fleet Management lot should be looked at as a possible site for that park.

"I do not think that the plan we've seen so far adequately reflects the current and future need for recreational space," Smith said.

The city is updating its overarching plan for the North Branch Industrial Corridor, which extends on a diagonal from Chicago Avenue to Fullerton Avenue and includes Goose Island and the Finkl Steel site being developed by Sterling Bay, as well as the Fleet Management lot.

The Department of Planning and Development is working on a timeline to present the new plan to the Plan Commission on April 20, possibly for final approval. It will then dictate guidelines for development along that corridor for decades.

Smith and Allan Mellis, of the Wrightwood Neighbors Association, both complained Tuesday that the process was being hurried, especially as a summary of the plan's framework that was scheduled to be posted online Friday has yet to be released.

Mellis called it "interesting" that Tuesday's community meeting, held at St. John Cantius Church, 825 N. Carpenter St., was supposed to be a question-and-answer session, even though there was no plan summary available for anyone to have questions about.

"They're rushing it," Mellis said.

Smith agreed, saying, "If the plan isn't online yet, there should be additional time for [public] comment."

Abby Monroe, of the Department of Planning and Development, said Tuesday's meeting was intended to be "more informal," suggesting the dozens of people attending should chat with consultants brought in on the plan to "talk to you one-on-one."

The two-hour meeting was generally respectful, with residents supplying feedback on their attitudes toward various aspects of the plan as presented so far at public meetings. Mellis submitted a proposal with more than 100 recommendations, including a fishing pier, reviving the CTA's Clybourn bus and reopening Southport Avenue between Clybourn and Cortland Avenue (running through the Finkl Steel site) and extending it to the Chicago River.

Wrobleski backed that proposal as well, saying a plan to connect Southport with Throop Street on the South Side would improve transportation in the area.

"I think that would be a way to create flow with traffic," he said.

The Department of Planning and Development will hold another public meeting on the North Branch Industrial Corridor Modernization Plan at 4 p.m. March 14 at UI Labs, 1415 N. Cherry Ave.