WEST GARFIELD PARK — Funding for a roller rink city officials hope will help transform a West Side business corridor is set for a City Council vote next week after skating through committee Tuesday.
The outdoor roller rink is planned for a city-owned vacant lot at 4008 W. Madison St. along the main commercial district in West Garfield Park, part of a larger community plaza that will host recreational activities for youth and older people in the area.
Some residents have said they worry the location would place kids right in the heart of a high-crime area, but city officials, including the local alderman, said Tuesday they think the roller rink would discourage criminal activity.
The Committee on Housing and Real Estate unanimously approved leasing the space to the Park District and authorized funding to support the project, including $1.5 million in tax revenue from the sale of recreational cannabis. A portion of state tax revenues from the sale of weed is set aside to community projects.
The money will pay for a multi-purpose court for roller skating, fitness classes and other sports, plus lighting, restroom facilities and a temporary concession stand. The Park District will provide roller skates free of charge.
Stephen Stults, assistant commissioner of the Department of Assets and Information Services, said the city is leasing the space to the Park District, rather than selling it for the creation of a permanent park, because the site is in a business corridor and there may be “more beneficial long-term uses.”
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said the rink is in a “very challenged area” of the Madison and Pulaski business corridor, as there are “no less” than five to 10 people selling illegal weed in the area on any given day.
“This use for active recreation, not only for our young people but also our seniors and other members of the community, would serve as a deterrent for some of the criminal activity that is taking place along the corridor,” he said.
Officials said the site was selected due to a “high number of shootings” over the past three years, and cited 120 arrests for cannabis offenses January 2018-April 2021.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said the roller rink is “a positive way of using this cannabis money to be able to make something positive happen for the West Side.”
“This is for the whole West Side,” said Burnett, whose ward is next to Ervin’s. “I guarantee you the whole West Side will be going to that roller rink … . I think the positive activity in that area will have an effect on the negative activity.”
If approved by the full City Council, the roller rink would be built this summer.
The committee also unanimously approved two $1 leases with community groups to build a health center and community garden in Woodlawn and Washington Park.
The city will lease property at 6336 S. Woodlawn Ave. to the Chicago Torture Justice Center for a community health center focused on psychological and counseling services.
The lease on the 9,600-square-foot space runs through 2027.
Separately, 15,140 square feet of outdoor vacant space at 6029 S. King Drive, near the southwest corner of Washington Park, will be leased to NeighborSpace for $1 a year through 2023 for the creation of a community garden. The city can renew the lease for up to three years.
City officials said Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), who represents the area, supported both projects.
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