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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Rogers Park Nature Center, Lakeview School Playground And West Ridge Sports Fields In Running For City Grant

The proposals for Nettlehorst Elementary, Leone Beach Park and Warren Park are part of the Chicago Works Community Challenge.

The Leone Beach Park fieldhouse could be opened as a nature center if it wins funding from the Chicago Works project.
Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
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ROGERS PARK — Three North Side public works projects are vying for $1.5 million from a city public infrastructure initiative.

A playground for Nettlehorst Elementary in Lakeview, a nature center at the Leone Beach Park field house in Rogers Park and a sports facility at West Ridge’s Warren Park are the North Side finalists for the Chicago Works Community Challenge initiative. The program is giving seven projects from different parts of the city a total of $10 million.

The city also has announced its finalists for the Far South Side and Southeast Side. More projects being considered will be announced over the next two weeks.

The three North Side projects were chosen by a committee that evaluated whether proposals met the criteria of a public infrastructure project and were feasible to build with $1.5 million, Gabriela Jirasek, an official with the city’s Department of Planning and Development, told neighbors in a community meeting Tuesday.

Final selections in each city region will be announced by the end of the year, and work will begin by no later than the fourth quarter of 2022. Neighbors can weigh in by filling out a community survey by clicking here.

More about the finalists:

Leone Beach Park Nature Center

As Chicago’s oldest lakefront building, the field house opened in 1900 at 1222 W. Touhy Ave. as a pumping station. It is not open to the public but is used by lifeguards during the summer.

A city grant could help the park advisory council transform it into a public nature center and learning space, something organizers have discussed since at least 2014.

The project would rehab the building to include classrooms, meeting rooms and display areas. Upgrades would include accessible entrances and other structural improvements.

The center would be combined with other natural restoration projects around the field house, including the sand prairie along the beachfront and black oak savanna just west of the building, said Ann Whelan, president of the Leone Beach Park Advisory Council.

Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) was at the community meeting to support the proposal.

“Transforming this field house into a nature center will allow the community the opportunity to learn about conservation, resiliency and sustainability,” Hadden said in a statement.

Nettelhorst Elementary Playground

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
Nettelhorst’s playground could be overhauled with funding from Chicago Works.

Nettelhorst Elementary School, a magnet cluster school at 3252 N. Broadway, wants to renovate its aging rear playground.

The playground has old equipment and a faulty playing surface that has needed repairs over the years. A new playground would be fully accessible, safer and have more equipment for Nettelhorst and the community’s diverse learners. A second playground at the school is not included in the scope of the grant application.

“There are obvious trip hazards,” Seema Radhakrishnan, member of Nettelhorst parent-teach organization, said at the meeting. “Our goal is to make it inclusive and a place where kids of all walks of life can come and play.”

The playground and adjacent blacktop host numerous community events, including farmers markets, holiday celebrations and Christmas tree sales.

“It’s not just a playground,” Radhakrishnan said. “It’s really a place where our community on the North Side, especially East Lakeview, can convene.”

Warren Park Multi-Generational Sports Fields

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

The third proposal would replace and upgrade sports facilities at Warren Park, 6601 N. Western Ave.

Plans include tearing down the broken and inoperable batting cages, creating a multipurpose volleyball court and converting a vacant area behind the batting cages into a cricket practice area.

A nature play space would also be built, accessible to people who use wheelchairs and strollers.

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, Pamela Stauffer, president of the park advisory council, said at the community meeting.

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

Warren Park is also a haven for cricket matches and is home to an eight-team adult league. Included in the proposal is upgrades to the cricket field, including installing seating, lights for night games and creating a new pitcher’s mound and warm-up area.

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