SOUTH SHORE — The Chicago Park District kicked off its community meetings for a Jackson Park framework plan asking for input from neighbors while also showing that it may be too late to significantly alter some of the largest changes coming to the park.
The meeting at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Drive, drew nearly 600 people eager to weigh in on changes like a proposal to close more than a third of Cornell Drive and up to half of Marquette Drive in the park and other changes to accommodate plans for the Obama Presidential Center and the combining of the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses.
“We have so many bottlenecks now,” said Monica Swope of South Shore, who was worried about closing Cornell Drive from 60th Street to Hayes Drive. “That’s closing one of the main arteries to Lake Shore Drive.”
Closing Cornell Drive drew more criticism than the less frequently used Marquette, but both road closures seem mandatory for the framework plan and the golf course and presidential center plans to move forward.
Michael Strautmanis, vice president of civic engagement for the foundation building the presidential center, said the Obamas’ plans for a museum, playgrounds and an athletic center all rely on the street being gone.
“There are all these wonderful things they want to bring to this community, and they cannot bring those things with a six-lane highway running through the park,” Strautmanis said.
The Obama Foundation won’t be able to wait until the Park District’s framework plan is done in October to make a decision about closing the road. The planning for the presidential center will largely be final with limited room to change by October as the center prepares to start the city approval process in November.
But the presentations did reveal areas where there is still room for the community to shape many of the smaller aspects that are part of the big changes coming to the lakefront park.
At the meeting the Park District for the first time publicly released the layout of the new golf course, showing that a nature sanctuary on the southernmost peninsula of the South Shore Cultural Center would be replaced with the 12th hole of the remade golf course.
Siv Sjursen of South Shore said she wants to keep the path that leads to a fire pit with views of the skyline.
“I’m shocked it may be wiped out,” Sjursen said.
Park District Supt. Mike Kelly said he’s committed to keeping the nature sanctuary, but will likely need to adjust the boundaries to accommodate the skyline views planners envision.
There may also still be time to affect the style and placement of a new clubhouse, which was at the southwest corner of Hayes and Cornell drives in maps shown Wednesday, but has not been discussed at length yet.
Access to all the new amenities could also still be shaped.
L. Stanley Davis of Woodlawn said he wanted the Park District to avoid putting in additional paid parking if possible because it limits the ability of low-income families to come to the park.
“Now we have to worry about going back to feed the meter,” Davis said.
There are still two more chances to weigh in this month, with more meetings about specific topics expected later in the summer.
The next two meetings are scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Hyde Park Academy, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., and 6 p.m. Tuesday at Ald. Leslie Hairston’s 5th Ward meeting at La Rabida Children’s Hospital, 6501 S. Promontory Drive.
The initial layout of the golf course shows the clubhouse at Hayes and Cornell drives. [Courtesy of the Chicago Park District]
There may still be time to affect how a nature sanctuary is affected by the redesigned golf course.