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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

West Town’s Talcott Elementary Completes Playground Renovation And Opens It To Public For Some Hours

The $1.4 million project was 15 years in the making. Neighbors will be able to use the space in the evenings after school and on weekends.

The new playground at Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy, 1840 W. Ohio St. in West Town
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WEST TOWN — A West Town elementary school has completed a long-awaited overhaul of its playground and sports field, which will now be open to the public evenings and weekends.

For years, students at Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy, 1840 W. Ohio St., had recess on old playground equipment and a muddy playing field that flooded easily, parents said. Students often would have indoor recess because of poor playground conditions.

This spring, neighbors and other members of the school community secured $1.4 million to renovate the playground, playing field and blacktop surface after years of advocacy and working with local politicians.

The overhaul included a turf field, new playground equipment and other improvements. The main cost of the project was an underground water retention system to prevent flooding, school council leader Cristine Pope-Nelson said in June.

The playground was finished ahead of schedule this fall, Pope-Nelson said, and the school council is opening the site to the public during certain hours.

The playground will be open to the public after school activities have ended on weekdays — usually 4-5 p.m. — until 8 p.m., and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. weekends, with school staff who live nearby being hired to open and close it, according to an email sent to neighbors.

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
The former blacktop and field at Talcott Fine Arts school in West Town. Parents, neighbors and local officials have secured $1.4 million to overhaul the playground and facilities

The renovation was funded mostly through a mix of state, city and Chicago Public Schools dollars. Talcott students and staff, as well as a few neighbors, also raised money for the project.

“The playground and field renovation was a $1.4 million project funded with state funds secured by State Representative Delia Ramirez, City Open Space Impact Fee funds through Alderman [Daniel La Spata], close to $400,000 in funds from Chicago Public Schools, money raised by Talcott students and staff, and a few contributions from neighbors,” Pope-Nelson said in an email.

The playground overhaul was designed by local architecture firm Burhani Design Architects, which offered its services for free. Civil engineering firm Epstein Global also worked on the project pro bono.

While now open to the public, no dogs, bikes or private parties or classes are allowed on the playground or field.

In the email to neighbors, the school council reminded playground users school activities always take priority for using the space.

“Talcott’s playground and field are school property and therefore the school is responsible for security and maintenance. PLEASE: be respectful and cooperate with these rules so we can continue to provide access to the community,” the group wrote in the email.

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