Waveland Avenue will not be closed for Schurz HS athletic field project
by BRIAN NADIG
Any improvements to the athletic field at Schurz High School will not include a controversial plan to close Waveland Avenue to allow for a proposed regulation-size soccer field, according to Schurz principal Dan Kramer and Alderman John Arena (45th).
“I strongly feel we have reached a point where I as principal must now act unilaterally,” Kramer said in a March 3 e-mail to a steering committee that Arena established to study the plan.
“This issue is literally tearing the neighborhood apart,” Kramer wrote. “And I no longer see this as healthy community dialogue, but instead as a contentious fight that is pitting neighbor against neighbor. We have literally become a political yard sign in the current 45th Ward race.”
Arena is facing Chicago police lieutenant John Garrido in an aldermanic runoff election on Tuesday, April 7. In 2011, Garrido lost by 30 votes to Arena, who is completing his first term as alderman.
At a debate, Garrido said that he opposed the closing of Waveland and hopes improvements to the field, which is located just to the north of the school, could be made without a street closure. “I don’t think it has to be all or nothing,” he said of the project.
Arena said at the debate that the project should go through his community review process before a decision on Waveland is made and that developers will become reluctant to invest in the ward if development proposals are quickly turned away.
The $1.5 million project, which would be funded through a private grant and the Portage Park Increment Financing District, called for Waveland to close between Milwaukee Avenue and Lowell Avenue. In January, the Old Irving Park Association announced its opposition to closing Waveland, which is one of the main access points to the area’s residential community.
Arena and Kramer said in a joint statement that the proposed street closing “has proven contentious” and that removing it from consideration is “in accordance with the wishes of the community.” Arena’s steering committee met twice on the issue.
The project included the installation of an artificial playing surface, and school officials have said that the soccer field would not be leased to adult leagues and that its use would not go beyond the early evening.
Kramer said that he remains hopeful that the school and community can work together on a new proposal. “I am convinced there is an option that will work for all of us. We just need to keep looking,” he said.