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North Park Village Nature Center Permanently Protected From Developers

The vote is the culmination of 40 years of advocacy from community members fighting to preserve the land from development.

The North Park Village Nature Center at 5801 N. Pulaski Rd in 2019. The nature center received aldermanic menu money last year for improvements, Ald. Samantha Nugent (39th) said.
Flickr/Steve Silverman
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NORTH PARK — The North Park Village Nature Center, a Northwest Side oasis that some feared could be lost some day to development, was permanently protected from the bulldozer by the Chicago City Council.

Aldermen voted Wednesday to create a permanent legal easement on the site at 5801 N. Pulaski Road. The vote is the culmination of 40 years of advocacy from the North Park Village Advisory Council, North River Commission, neighbors, nature lovers and others who have fought to protect the land from development. 

“It’s a big deal today to finally move on the conservation easement for North Park Village to perpetuity,” Ald. Sam Nugent (39th) said during Wednesday’s City Council meeting. 

The easement that prevents development exists thanks to neighbors successfully fighting for a deal with the city in 1989 that in part keeps 46 acres of the campus a natural area and not a shopping center.

The city approved the original conversation easement in 1999 and it was set to expire in 2064. Wednesday’s vote makes the easement permanent and will protect and preserve the land for generations to come, Nugent said. 

The easement, when created, was the first of its kind in Chicago, Joel Bookman, treasurer at the North River Commission, previously told Block Club.

The 160-acre campus features an extensive nature preserve, large park, a gymnastics center, a school, fire station, private housing and over 600 units of affordable senior housing. It was formerly home to a tuberculosis sanitarium that closed in 1974.

“North Park Village would not have become the dynamic community asset it is today without the persistent and powerful organizing of community members and preservationists,” said Sylvia Asllani, vice president at the North River Commission and a member of North Park Village and the Peterson Park Improvement Association.

“The story of North Park Village is a testament to the power of citizens and community working together to create positive outcomes in the face of powerful opposition.”

Last year neighbors were rattled about its future after former Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th) created a new commission to oversee the area and a legal notice appeared in the Sun-Times announcing Department of Planning and Development’s intent to “transfer to the Chicago Park District a portion of the property.”

Planning department officials later told Block Club the notice was required so the city could formally give the land to the park district and that the transfer would not affect the temporary easement. While this explanation calmed neighbors, it also reinforced their desire to have the land be permanently protected.

The easement being made permanent is a significant victory for the community to preserve such a unique resource, said John Friedmann, president of North River Commission.

“After years of community effort to make this happen, we want to thank Alderwoman Samantha Nugent, of the 39th Ward, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot,” Friedmann said.

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