The Kelvyn Park fieldhouse in Hermosa. Renovations to the fieldhouse are among seven community projects that received up to $1.5 million in city funding. Credit: Provided

SOUTH SHORE — Seven projects to improve public spaces across Chicago will receive up to $1.5 million each in city grants as part of the Chicago Works Community Challenge.

The $10 million initiative, launched in 2021, supports upgrades to parks, libraries and outdoor facilities at public schools. The city received nearly 500 submissions, and shortlisted 21 projects in the fall.

Carolyn Vazquez (second from left) and Mayor Lori Lightfoot ©nter) pose for a picture at Tuesday’s Chicago Works Community Challenge awards ceremony. Vazquez submitted a winning proposal to upgrade racquetball and handball courts at Rainbow Beach. Credit: Mayor's Office/Facebook

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the winners Tuesday at Rainbow Beach Park, 3111 E. 77th St. in South Shore, which is home to one of the winning projects.

Residents “know better than anyone what their parks, their libraries and their schools are lacking, and what would be a value-add in terms of investments,” Lightfoot said Tuesday. ” … Positive, impactful and long-lasting change must come from the community, in collaboration with stakeholders all across our city.”

Here’s more on the winners.

Southeast region: Rainbow Beach Park

Rainbow Beach Park, 3111 E. 77th St., will get new surfaces, seating areas and landscaping for the racquetball and handball courts and clubhouse. The project, proposed by Illinois State Racquetball Association board member Carolyn Vazquez, will likely include repairs and accessibility improvements for the facility’s clubhouse.

Rainbow Beach “is an area that is overdue for, and worthy of, some attention,” Vazquez said. “Witnessing the decline of these courts over the last 20 years … I thought the community challenge was something that could be a possible solution, and revitalize and repurpose that area.”

The Rainbow Beach racquetball clubhouse is decaying and in need of roof repairs. Credit: Provided

Far South region: Matthew Gallistel Language Academy

The school, 10347 S. Ewing Ave. in East Side, will get an overhaul of the decaying playground, new community areas and outdoor learning space. The project was proposed by Gallistel counselor Rogelio Lopez.

Gallistel’s slides, swings and benches are corroded and worn, and the playground is strewn with weeds and hardened rubber mats, Principal Kimberly Nelson said in October.

Grant dollars would support a new playground with a focus on improving safety and greenery for the school’s nearly 600 students and nearby residents.

“We often have injuries throughout the day, such as cuts, scrapes [and] bruises, when children fall on this padding,” Nelson said. “This is just not acceptable for our students and our community members who use our facility.”

A recent photo of Matthew Gallistel Language Academy’s playground. Credit: Provided

Southwest region: Claremont STEM Academy

The Chicago Lawn school, 2300 W. 64th St., will get a new playground and outdoor learning space. Middle school teacher Layla Treuhaft-Ali proposed the project.

West region: Columbus Park

The Austin park, 500 S. Central Ave, will get an outdoor performance stage, upgrades to basketball and tennis court, and improved accessibility and landscaping. The project was proposed by Austin resident and artist Samantha Jordan, and will include “improvements to natural spaces that foster social interaction.”

Northwest region: Kelvyn Park

The field house and auditorium at the park, 4438 W. Wrightwood Ave. in Hermosa, will receive roof repairs and accessibility upgrades. The proposal to improve “the largest building in the area for public use,” according to Lightfoot, was submitted by Casey Guerra on behalf of the park’s advisory council.

The two-story brick fieldhouse was completed in 1928. The locker room’s bathroom is unusable by the public and staff because of plumbing issues that include rusty water coming out of the faucets. Other problems at the field house include mold, asbestos, lead paint and a lack of ADA compliance, park advisory council members previously said.

“We care deeply about our park community and want to increase the quality of life for our neighbors,” said Guerra, the park advisory council’s president. 

Central region: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library

The children’s section at the library, 3436 S. King Dr. in Douglas, will be renovated. Proposed by Janell Nelson, a Bronzeville resident and parent, the project will likely also highlight King’s legacy in Chicago throughout the library and beautify its public spaces.

North region: Warren Park

There will be new spaces for cricket, horseshoes, pickleball and other activities at Warren Park, 6601 N. Western Ave. in West Ridge. The project was proposed by Pamela Stauffer on behalf of the park’s advisory council, and would “reanimate parts of Warren Park that weren’t being used,” Stauffer said in October.

Warren Park is already a sports destination on the Far North Side. The park includes five baseball diamonds, an outdoor ice rink, six tennis/pickleball courts, a cricket field and a nine-hole golf course. But the improvements included in the application would make the space more inclusive to more types of recreation, Stauffer previously said.

“What we want to do with this proposal is to reanimate parts of Warren Park that weren’t being used, and to make these spaces usable for individuals that otherwise wouldn’t be using them,” Stauffer said.

The Warren Park batting cages are inoperable. Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago

Construction on the projects is expected to begin late this year or in early 2023.

Only infrastructure projects were eligible for the grants, which are funded by the Chicago Works infrastructure plan. The money can’t pay for programs, staffing, computers and other equipment.

The 14 finalists which did not receive grants Tuesday will be placed into a “priority pipeline” for future funding, city officials said in October.

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