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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

Garfield Park Getting Nearly $9 Million For Upgrades To Field House, Little League Stadium, Water Gardens

Renovations are long overdue, residents say, but an advisory council was left out of the planning process.

Garfield Park in Chicago's Garfield Park neighborhood.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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This story has been updated to reflect Friday’s City Council vote to approve park funding.

GARFIELD PARK — City Council voted Friday to give Garfield Park a much-needed renovation.

The plan allocates $8.9 million from the area’s special tax district to allow the Park District to renovate Garfield Park’s field house, make improvements to the Little League stadium, redesign the water gardens and restore the dilapidated powerhouse and stables. The funds will also be used to revamp the indoor children’s garden at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

The plan passed through the city’s finance committee and was approved by the full City Council Friday. Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said the improvements would help restore the park to its “luster and glory.”

“That’s a park that needs a lot of help, and what has happened over the last couple of months with the roadways, curbs and other things, this is helping to bring back that park to it’s true glory as a gem of the West Side of Chicago,” he said earlier this week at a Finance Committee meeting. “We still have a little more work to do, but we’re definitely making great progress on Garfield.”

The renovations will improve opportunities for youth recreation and sports by rebuilding the Little League baseball fields in the park at the corner of Jackson and Hamlin boulevards. The new facilities would have dugouts, bleachers and lighting. They could include a turf field, Park District spokeswoman Irene Tostado said.

“The improvements, it could give us a sense of pride in our community and a positive place to play. It can bring more people to the parks and kind of control the activities at night with the lighting,” said Jerry Mack, Garfield Park Little League president.

Athletic programs and quality recreational facilities are vital for kids to have on the West Side because those activities “keep them engaged and keep them out of harm’s way,” Mack said.

Renovations to the Garfield Park field house and cultural center will preserve the architecture of the gold dome by fixing up the drainage and gutter systems on the building. The Park District will also improve the building’s auditorium with acoustic and lighting renovations, Tostado said.

Funds also will be used to redesign the park’s water court and garden, which was originally designed by Jens Jensen, the Danish landscape architect who also designed the Garfield Park Conservatory. The water court was renovated 15 years ago, Park District officials said, but it quickly fell into disrepair again and is unused.

The redesign of the water court will repurpose the two ponds and repave the surrounding concrete to “reimagine the use of these spaces while honoring their historic spirit,” Tostado said.

Residents who live near Garfield Park are excited about the improvements, as they have asked for the park to be renovated for years, said Keith Kelley, a longtime resident who has served on the Garfield Park Advisory Council but is currently on leave from the group.

But the city and the park district’s vision to improve the park doesn’t necessarily align with what residents want because “they didn’t actually discuss it with us” during the planning phase, Kelley said.

“I’m always going to welcome improvements to my park. … But it always comes down to how things happen and the process,” Kelley said. “At no point in this process has there been any community input.”

The Garfield Park Advisory Council has asked the city for years for funds to revitalize the bandstand to allow performances and fix deteriorated pathways in the park, council secretary Carol Johnson said.

The volunteer advisory council is considered by the city as a voice for issues related to the park, but it wasn’t informed of the improvement plan until it was already on City Council’s agenda, she said.

“How are we on an advisory council and we don’t know about this $9 million?” Johnson said. “We’ve been advocating for a lot of stuff.

“As the advisory council for the community, we should have some input on these decisions.”

Justin Laurence contributed to this report.

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