Broadway Armory Park, 5917 N. Broadway in Edgewater. Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago

EDGEWATER — City and park officials are making contingency plans to the programming and services offered at Broadway Armory Park as the facility is being eyed as the latest emergency migrant shelter.

Broadway Armory Park, 5917 N. Broadway, is among five facilities being considered for an imminent conversion into a shelter as the city struggles to find housing for thousands of asylum seekers being bused to Chicago.

Though city officials have yet to say that the massive Edgewater park building will definitively be used as a shelter, park programs and building tenants are making arrangements to move to other nearby facilities, officials said at a community meeting Wednesday.

The gymnastics program at Broadway Armory Park will be moved to the Peterson Gymnastics Center in North Park for the remainder of the summer program season, said Stacey Anti, north region director at the Chicago Park District.

The armory’s fitness center will close and members will have their membership honored at other park locations.

Day camp programs, the largest programs at the park, are likely to be moved out of the facility, Anti said. The campers will likely go on plenty of field trips in the final days of the camp session.

“That way they still have a great summer experience but they’re off-site during the day,” Anti said at the meeting.

Other summer programs might wrap up early, and any person whose program does wrap up before the scheduled conclusion will be offered the chance at a prorated refund, Anti said. Park participants will be made aware of finalized program changes, she said.

Efforts are being made to keep open the Broadway Armory’s senior center, a popular site for retirement-age neighbors to get hot meals and other services, Ald. Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth (48th) said in a newsletter to neighbors.

The changes were announced at a virtual meeting Wednesday held by Manaa-Hoppenworth and other city officials as neighbors have hotly debated the armory’s potential use as a migrant shelter.

South American migrants set up their bedding while they seek temporary shelter at the Chicago Police 12th District station near Pilsen on May 9, 2023. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Under the city’s proposal, at least 300 migrants would be housed in the Broadway Armory, according to a FAQ released by Manaa-Hoppenworth’s office.

The shelter would likely cater to migrant families instead of single adults. It is unclear how long the armory could be used as a shelter, though the Park District will be looking to relocate some fall programs away from the armory, according to the city’s presentation at Wednesday’s meeting.

Manaa-Hoppenworth did not say at the meeting whether the armory’s use as a shelter is a done deal. She said that while all neighbors in the city have to step up to help, the armory is far from an underutilized facility.

“We want to acknowledge that this is a humanitarian crisis, one that must be addressed at the federal and international levels. Also, we are committed to doing as much as we can to contribute to solutions that are equitable for all of us,” Manaa-Hoppenworth said.

Manaa-Hoppenworth’s office will host another community meeting on the topic at 6 p.m. July 27 at the armory.

Neighbors, meanwhile, still have plenty of questions about the city’s plan to convert the armory.

Broadway Armory Park, 5917 N. Broadway, is one of the largest Park District facilities in the city and the only fieldhouse in Edgewater. Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago

The Broadway Armory has been under consideration as a possible migrant shelter for four months, Manaa-Hoppenworth said at the meeting.

News of the armory’s potential reuse has been circulating in the community for nearly that long, with many neighbors working to both encourage the conversion and also thwart the plan.

Five recent candidates for the 48th Ward alderperson office drafted a letter to the community showing support for the armory’s use a shelter. The candidates — including Manaa-Hoppenworth’s runoff opponent Joe Dunne and others that backed her successful runoff bid — called on the new alderwoman and city officials to find a compromise that keeps the facility open to the public while also sheltering migrant families.

“We believe that the armory can be a public resource for both community services and shelter for our new neighbors. We ask Alderwoman Manaa-Hoppenworth and her team to develop a comprehensive plan that shares resources among community members and migrants,” said the letter signed by Larry Svabek, Nick Ward, Nassir Faulkner, Andre Peloquin and Dunne.

Ginger Williams, executive editor of the local senior citizen advocacy group Edgewater Village Chicago, said she and others have stood outside the armory most days to collect signatures against its reuse as a shelter. The petition had 300 signatures as of earlier this week, Williams said.

Williams was at an earlier community meeting regarding the fate of the armory’s senior center if the facility was to be converted. The senior center is a Department of Family and Support Services satellite center where low-income seniors get critical services.

Williams said she’s glad the senior facility will remain open even if some services like the computer lab will be likely off-limits. But that doesn’t help the hundreds of other adults and children who use the center for programs.

“We just don’t feel other people need to be displaced,” Williams, who worked for previous 48th Ward Ald. Harry Osterman, said of other park users. “It’s the heart and soul of Edgewater. To take that away would be devastating.”

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