TPL Buys Property for Park Expansion (IL)
CHICAGO, IL – The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit conservation organization, announced today that it has finalized purchase of the Worldwide Distributors warehouse on Fullerton Avenue, a move that keeps the building out of developer hands and gives renewed hope to those who want adjacent Haas Park to be expanded.
One of TPL’s many missions is to improve the state of urban parks across the country. This is fulfilled here today because the organization now will own the building until the Chicago Park District can afford to take possession of it.
The building may at some point be torn down to make space for a new field house, or it may be re-developed into a recreation center. While the building’s fate is murky, it’s clear the property it sits on is destined to become part of Haas Park, which serves the Logan Square neighborhood.
Expanding the park is a top priority for many in the neighborhood because Haas Park, one of the busiest and most used parks in Chicago, fails to meet the city’s own minimum standard for open space. Simply put, the park is too small to serve all the kids in Logan Square.
The fight to expand the park has waged for more than 10 years now. It’s a fight that has been fought by grass roots organizations, local politicians, including Flores, neighborhood groups and the Chicago Park District. Today, TPL joins the fight.
“We moved forward with this purchase even though it represents a big risk for us,” said Chris Slattery, Director of TPL’s Chicago office. “Even so, we took this risk to ensure that a rare opportunity to expand the park is not lost. Plans to redevelop the building for commercial use were well underway when we signed a contract to purchase the building.”
TPL’s decision to make the purchase has sparked action by others as well. In November, upon word of TPL’s impending purchase, the Chicago Park District committed $1 million out of the 2005 budget toward the expansion of Haas Park. It’s possible even more funding for expansion could be made available in the park district’s 2006 budget.
“We are very excited about the Trust for Public Land’s acquisition,” said Jim Chronis, the district’s chief operating officer. “It’s our shared vision that we not only expand the boundaries of Haas Park, but also increase recreation options and improve the quality of life for residents in Logan Square.”
1st Ward Alderman Manny Flores, who represents the Logan Square neighborhood, said TPL has become a vital partner in the expansion effort.
“Haas Park is a beloved neighborhood park that requires expansion to match its use by the surrounding community,” Flores said. “Local residents, the Chicago Park District, the Trust for Public Land and the Haas Park Advisory Council did an outstanding job allocating the resources Haas Park needs to serve the Logan Square Community.” Alderman Flores also made an early pledge from his campaign funds toward the fundraising drive that it launched last November to raise the funds necessary to buy and hold the building for at least a year.
Those in the neighborhood, residents and community activists who have fought for years to get Haas Park expanded, are thrilled that this milestone has been reached.
“I need a new field house, and while it’ll remain a tough road getting one built, this move by the Trust for Public Land helps greatly,” said Phil Jones, a Logan Square resident and head of the Haas Park Advisory Council. “We’ll have more land, and no one will be able to say we don’t have space for a new field house”.
“I have such a sense of ‘Wow’ about this,” Jones said. “It’s happening. We really have a chance now for the Chicago Park District to purchase this from TPL and get the park expanded. I’m really excited.”
“City parks make city living more livable,” Slattery said. They offer recreational opportunities for at-risk youth and low-income children. Access to public parks is linked to crime reduction, especially reductions in juvenile delinquency. Recreation centers keep kids off the street and in a safe environment, filling their time when they could otherwise be getting into trouble.
“It’s for these reasons,” Slattery said, “that TPL has identified neighborhoods throughout Chicago that need help growing the urban parks within their boundaries. Besides Logan Square, those include Pilsen, Little Village, Humboldt Park and Rogers Park. The work being done at Haas, especially the partnerships TPL has forged with local leaders and residents will serve as a model for future work throughout the city,” Slattery said.
“Our goal is to work with the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District, civic organizations and neighborhood groups to finish that job, to realize that some day all children in Chicago will have nearby access to one of the country’s finest city park systems,” Slattery said.
“Our success,” she said, “depends on support from local groups like the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and private fundraising to fill the gap when public dollars aren’t there in time. We would not have been able to afford to purchase and hold the expansion property next to Haas Park without the generous support of the Stenning on Lake Geneva Conservancy Society, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s New Communities Program, Alderman Manny Flores, Liberty Bank for Savings and other community businesses and residents.”
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