WEST HUMBOLDT PARK — West Humboldt Park is getting a skate park thanks to a group of neighbors who worked tirelessly to make it happen.
The skate park is planned for a small piece of land at Rice and Iowa streets that includes Park No. 432. The land is owned by both the Chicago Park District and the Salvation Army, which operates a “rapid-response” homeless center next door. Before the planning process can officially begin, ownership of the Salvation Army land must be transferred to the city, according to Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., whose 27th Ward includes the site.
The city introduced an ordinance in March that would allow it to buy the land the Salvation Army owns. The plan calls for expanding Park No. 432, which is only 0.08 acres — just under 3,500 square feet, according to the ordinance. The ordinance passed City Council in early April.
“I’m very excited about this one,” Burnett said. “It’s going to be good for the kids — something constructive. Salvation Army has activities going on there — after-school programs for the kids — and then they can go over to the skate park. It’s across the street from Kells Park. … It’s all coming together.”
Burnett said the city is planning to use Tax Increment Finance (TIF) dollars toward the skate park project, but couldn’t provide an exact amount. A Chicago Park District spokeswoman couldn’t provide one either.
Construction on the skate park is expected to start sometime this summer, which is welcome news to West Humboldt Park-based neighborhood group Blocks Together, the driving force behind the project.
The group’s youth identified the site as a good spot for a skate park about four years ago as part of a larger participatory budgeting effort focused on the Chicago/Central Park TIF district, according to Carolina Gaete-Tapia, co-director of the group.
Since then, the group has pushed city leaders, including Burnett, to use the TIF money on projects that would benefit the underserved community.
“It was really a community effort — a grassroots community effort that designed the whole process,” Gaete-Tapia said.
The skate park isn’t the only TIF-funded project that came out of the participatory budgeting sessions. A new hair braiding salon with job training opportunities also got a boost from the Chicago/Central Park TIF thanks to the neighborhood group.
“There’s this sense of understanding your power and how to assert it. It’s not the alderman that has the power, it really is us and how we enforce it to represent our interests,” Gaete-Tapia said.
A Chicago Park District spokeswoman didn’t respond to further questions about the skate park project.