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

EDGEWATER — The city is moving forward with the conversion of Broadway Armory Park into an emergency migrant shelter, prompting the relocation of some park programs and tenants from the facility.

Broadway Armory Park, 5917 N. Broadway, will be used as a migrant shelter beginning Tuesday, Mayor Brandon Johnson’s office and the Chicago Park District announced in a letter to the community.

The conversion will require the relocation of multiple park programs and services by Saturday, giving city officials time to prep the massive complex into a shelter.

Though most park programs will either end early or be moved elsewhere, the city-run senior center at the Broadway Armory will remain open, according to the mayor’s office. The senior dining center will continue to serve meals, though the computer lab and ping pong room will be closed.

“Our goal is to minimize disruption to the seniors,” a city spokesperson said in a statement.

The announcement of Broadway Armory Park’s use as a migrant shelter comes after months of rumors and hand-wringing by community members who said the facility’s conversion hurts at-risk neighbors. It also comes as the city struggles to find shelter for thousands of asylum seekers being bused to Chicago from border states like Texas.

Ald. Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth (48th) said in an email to constituents she was “disappointed” in the decision-making process behind converting the park facility.

“As your alderwoman, I feel the impact that repurposing the Broadway Armory as a temporary shelter for migrants seeking asylum will have, which is why my office has wanted to make a decision with the community and not behind closed doors,” Manaa-Hoppenworth said. “While I disagree with the decision-making process, I agree with the mission of supporting new arrivals wholeheartedly.”

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

Neighbors have worked to keep the Broadway Armory as a public park facility, saying it is a crucial neighborhood amenity that aids the young and old.

Some community members have organized a group called Save Our Broadway Armory Park. With the armory being the lone park field house in Edgewater — and one of the biggest indoor park facilities in the city — its closure to the public would impact thousands of residents, the group said.

The facility welcomes nearly 1,000 users a week, according to the group.

“Rather than shutdown [sic] Broadway Armory Park programs, the Park District should be expanding programs to welcome and include new arrivals and turn the park into a hub of recreational and educational resources and a safe haven from the streets for both local residents and new arrivals,” Troy McMillan, spokesperson for Save Our Broadway Armory Park, said in a statement.

A community meeting on the migrant shelter plan will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the armory. There is a seating capacity of 400 plus standing room availability. For more information on the meeting, click here.

Dozens of South American migrants seek temporary shelter at the Chicago Police 12th District station near Pilsen on May 9, 2023. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Many of the armory’s programs will be moved to other park facilities. That includes the gymnastics program, which will move to the Peterson Gymnastics Center in North Park for the remainder of the summer program season, officials said.

Day camps and Rec Leader in Training program participants will attend daily field trips starting Monday through the rest of next week when camp ends, according to the park district. Campers will still meet and sign in and out of the Broadway Armory on those days.

The “girls P.L.A.Y.” camp will move to Margate Park, 4921 N. Marine Drive. Teen volleyball camps will also move to Margate Park.

Classes ending early include pilates for seniors and adults, teen club, open adult volleyball, open adult basketball and badminton, among others. A full list of class relocations and early end dates is available here.

The armory will be the 16th emergency migrant shelter opened by the city since late last year, when asylum seekers began arriving on buses. Over 11,500 migrants have come to Chicago since August 2022.

As the city seeks to move migrants out of police station lobbies, there is still a need for 1,500 shelter beds, according to the city.

Manaa-Hoppenworth said she will work to find more program opportunities for Edgewater residents while also welcoming the area’s newest neighbors.

“We must now adjust to this new reality and ensure that asylum seekers are treated with dignity and respect as we work with you to secure new opportunities for programming in the 48th ward,” she said in her newsletter. “I know that we can all work together and show the rest of the world the resilience that our ward and our city embody.”

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