$1M Commitment to Chicago’s Haas Park Praised

CHICAGO, Il, 11/23/2004 ?- The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit conservation organization, praised Chicago Park District Superintendent Timothy Mitchell’s surprise weekend announcement to commit $1 million in his 2005 budget toward the expansion of Haas Park.

TPL currently is working to purchase the unused Worldwide Distributors warehouse on Fullerton Avenue with the intention of holding it until the park district can afford to buy it. The venture is a risk, and TPL must raise enough money to pay all the costs associated with owning and holding for at least a year such a large building. That includes financing and property management costs.

“This gift, this year, when we all know how tight the Chicago Park District’s budget is, shows us the good faith of park officials and gives us greater comfort in assuming the risk of buying and holding property for the park expansion,” said Chris Slattery, Director of TPL’s Chicago office.

With the help of local and national partners, TPL’s near term goal is to raise more than $200,000 to cover its projected ownership costs. Before this past weekend, TPL and its local partners had only verbal and written indications of support from the Chicago Park District. That all changed Saturday when Superintendent Mitchell told a group of Haas Park supporters he is adding $1 million to his capital budget and earmarking it for the sole purpose of expanding the tiny park.

Logan Square residents have been fighting for expansion at Haas Park – which is located in the most park-poor neighborhood in Chicago – for nearly two decades, said Phil Jones, president of the Haas Park Advisory Council.

“We appreciate the Trust for Public Land’s commitment to realize the expansion of Haas Park,” said Superintendent Mitchell. “This expansion project is a prime example of the need for financial and visionary partners to invest in our facilities, our communities and the quality of life for residents through recreation.”

“What the Park District and Tim Mitchell brought to the table this past weekend was a clear willingness to work with us in achieving what we’ve worked so long to accomplish,” Jones said. He added that he also is grateful to the Trust for Public Land for bringing their resources and expertise to the table as well, noting that the park district’s announcement may not have happened otherwise. “To me, TPL is like that second chance, that guardian angel,” he said.

Haas Park is in Chicago Alderman Manny Flores’ ward, and he too praised Mitchell’s announcement, along with TPL for helping bring such an announcement to reality.

“I think both these agencies have become invaluable partners to the Logan Square community by making these commitments,” Flores said.

The Trust for Public Land specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law, to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. Regional accomplishments include the protection of Plum Island near Starved Rock State Park in Illinois and expansion of seven city parks and playgrounds in Chicago since 2001. Nationwide, TPL has helped protect more than 1.9 million acres. To learn more visit www.tpl.org .?