Air conditioning, ADA accessibility, Esdohr House repairs top needs for Jefferson Memorial Park, based on survey results; Ald. Gardiner, JMPAC to host larger community meeting
by BRIAN NADIG
Making Jefferson Memorial Park “more destination friendly” was a common theme mentioned by residents at a May 21 meeting in which possible infrastructure improvements for the the park were discussed.
One resident said that she would like to see regular outdoor concerts there during the summer. “Then I don’t have to go to the suburbs for that,” she said.
Several residents said that electrical upgrades and other improvements would be needed to facilitate more outdoor events, such as movies and larger farmers’ markets.
Alderman James Gardiner (45th) and the Jefferson Memorial Park Advisory Council hosted the 70-minute meeting, which was held outdoors at the park, 4822 N. Long Ave. Members of the Jefferson Park Forward and Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association were invited to discuss the results of a survey their members recently filled out about the park. About 25 people attended the meeting.
Topping the list of recommendations, based on the survey results of 75 respondents, was installing air conditioning throughout the fieldhouse. “Taking classes in that building is brutal,” one resident said.
Other recommendations included making the fieldhouse ADA accessible, renovating the 140-year-old Esdohr House (the park’s former craft shop), improved drainage for the grass sports field, tennis court repairs, the addition of a pickleball court, improvements to the pool locker rooms, installing a dog park and repairs to the fieldhouse driveway.
Gardiner recently announced that he would like to allocate funds from the Jefferson Park and neighboring Portage Park tax increment financing districts for park improvements before the TIF districts expire at the end of 2022. Funds can be transferred between the two districts, and any unspent funds at the end next year would go to the city’s general fund.
Earlier in the month Gardiner asked for community input on the possibility of a $3 million artificial sports field for Jefferson Park but said after the meeting that other park needs have “a higher priority” based on the feedback.
“I’m here to listen,” Gardiner said. “This is just a meeting to collaborate ideas (and) see what’s best for our community.”
Advisory council president Lionel Rabb said that the turf fields have value in parks “three or four times the size of this park” but that Jefferson Park is simply too small. “Green space is a priority,” he said of the council’s vision for the park.
The council will be working with the Chicago Park District to determine which recommendations are feasible and then hold “a larger community meeting” with Gardiner to solicit more feedback, Rabb said. The fact that the park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places could place restrictions on what can be done or not done and that in some instances there may be other funding sources for a particular improvement, he said.
Rabb has called the prospect of getting several needed improvements at the park completed by the end of next year “a gamechanger.” He said that it has been years since the park has had significant repairs.
Gardiner said that recent discussions about the park have been productive despite disagreement regarding the turf field concept. “Some are for it, and some are against it. That’s great. That’s what makes this a community,” he said.
The seven-acre park was built about 90 years ago, replacing a subdivision of homes that was one located on the site.