Purchase Would Expand Chicago’s Haas Park

CHICAGO, IL, 11/19/04: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit conservation organization, announced today that it is purchasing the unused Worldwide Distributors warehouse on Fullerton Avenue with eyes on turning the property over to the Chicago Park District so the adjacent Haas Park can be expanded.

Chris Slattery, director of TPL’s Chicago office, said TPL’s main goal right now is to raise enough funds to pay all costs associated with owning and holding such a large building for at least a year, such as financing costs and property management costs.

TPL is working with local and national partners to raise more than $200,000 needed to cover these costs and are looking to community groups to raise roughly $50,000.

A rally and fundraiser will be held at Haas Park Saturday at 1 p.m. where people can learn about the community’s efforts to expand the park and get a new, larger field house built. Contributions or pledges made in the next three weeks will be matched by Alderman Manny Flores and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).

Expansion of Haas Park is a top priority for many in Logan Square, one of the most park-poor neighborhoods in Chicago. The campaign to get more space to the park got both grass roots organizations and local politicians to put their heads together and figure out a way to make expansion a reality.

“This is our second chance,” said Phil Jones, head of the Haas Park Advisory Council. “We’ve been at this for about 10 years but before it felt like just my advisory council and the kids. Now we have a strong group of partners.”

The paring of TPL with LISC’s New Communities Program and local community groups like the Logan Square Neighborhood Association was a natural fit. “TPL and LISC are in a better position to take risk than local groups and to leverage local dollars into bigger investments, but we could not do this without strong local support,” said Chris Slattery.

TPL’s purchase fulfills one of its chief goals: assisting public agencies in the creation of parkland in park poor urban areas across the country. This goal is formalized in a TPL nationwide program called Parks for People.

TPL intends on holding the title to the Worldwide property until the Chicago Park District (CPD) can purchase it. Why? Because waiting until the CPD had ability to purchase it risked losing the property to developers, and that would mean losing a prime opportunity to expand the park, Slattery said. “Now, the property is in our hands, and we are dedicated to the park’s expansion and renovation.” 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 1.6 million acres. To learn more visit www.tpl.org.