LINCOLN PARK — Lincoln Park's alderman and prominent community groups are circulating an online petition demanding a major new park be part of the rampant development to come along the North Branch Industrial Corridor.
Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) and the Sheffield Neighborhood Association are leading the petition drive ahead of this week's meeting of the Plan Commission, which is expected take up the sale of the only major tract of land owned by the city along the North Branch of the Chicago River on Thursday.
It's the latest skirmish in an ongoing battle to get the city to set aside land for a major park as it throws open the areas just north and south of Goose Island to mixed-use residential developments after they were banned for decades in what were formerly Primary Manufacturing Districts.
Smith, who has led the outcry for a major new park going back to last year, said in an email distributed to ward residents last week that the petition drive was "going strong" with more than 800 people already signing on.
"Continued community engagement is vital to achieve a much-needed park for Chicago residents," Smith said.
The alderman added Tuesday that signatures had almost doubled in a week to 1,500, saying, "The sense that people want this open space is growing across the North Side."
The Sheffield Neighborhood Association has also pushed the petition, citing how new zoning changes affirmed by the Plan Commission and the City Council encourage massive residential developments that will further strain already overtaxed public ares like Oz Park.
"Nowhere in these plans is a requirement for a public park," the association said in an email sent out to residents Tuesday. "Our families, kids and teams need a place to play and unwind. We have joined with other individuals and groups to demand that the city set aside at least 15 contiguous acres of parkland with recreational fields in the industrial corridor."
Both Smith and the association urge people to sign and share the petition online.
"We want to show the city how much support there is for a park," the association wrote.
The Wrightwood Neighbors Association, the RANCH Triangle Association, Friends of the Parks, the Oz Park Baseball Association, the Chicago Sport & Social Club and the Chicago City Soccer Club also endorsed the petition drive.
The issue comes to a head anew as the Plan Commission mulls the sale of the city's 18-acre Fleet Management lot at 1685 N. Throop St. on Thursday. Sheffield Neighborhood Association Vice President Ted Wrobleski suggested in March that the city could turn over that land for a park.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, however, has had other ideas, proposing that the lot be sold to developers in exchange for creating a new Fleet Management lot in Englewood. He has also touted how the sale would help fund a new Police and Fire Department training center in Garfield Park.
The Plan Commission has the sale on its agenda Thursday in a meeting taking place at 10 a.m. at City Hall.
"I'll be testifying," Smith said.