Berny Stone Park

Today’s DNA Info reports that the alderman and unnamed community groups are supporting a proposal to name our new park at Devon & McCormick “Berny Stone Park.”  The City has begun the 45-day public comment period required before changing the name from Park 526 to Berny Stone Park. I first suggested the honor a year ago, and I’m glad to see that the alderman is acting on it.





The Groundbreaking Non-Event

It was over in the blink of an eye. And if you blinked, you missed it.

The groundbreaking for Park 526 took exactly 2 seconds. The rest of the time was spent waiting for the Mayor.

It was kind of comical. There were more camera trucks on the sidewalk than residents in the park-to-be. After a long wait in high winds, residents saw the Mayor, surrounded by an entourage including the alderman but not Ira, coming down the long walkway to the far end of the vacant lot that will become the park. He shook hands with three or four people and then walked directly to a mound of dirt near the center of the area, the camera crews lined up on its other side. The Mayor, the alderman, and a couple of other people picked up shovels, smiled into the cameras, then dropped the shovels and walked away, leaving stunned residents still walking to the side of the mound to  take their own pictures. But before they could see what was happening, it was over. No welcome, no speeches, no honored guests introduced.

Groundbreaking accomplished, the Mayor and his entourage walked away. The alderman posed for pictures. Sirens screaming, the Mayor left the neighborhood.

Watching this non-event, it occurred to me that the reason the alderman had not informed the neighborhood about it earlier is that she didn’t know when it would occur. The groundbreaking was clearly tied to the mayor’s schedule. I’ll bet she learned on Tuesday morning that the Mayor could give her 3 minutes on Wednesday afternoon.

And that’s how long he stayed.

I can hardly wait for the groundbreaking for the new library.



The Groundbreaking for Park 526

The alderman sent out a notice yesterday afternoon that the official groundbreaking for Park 526 at Devon & McCormick would take place today. Yes, today, at 2:00 p.m. As one resident commented to me, you’d think the alderman would know about such an event well in advance so she could notify the community earlier. Well, yes, you would. I figure that Ira must be back in town. Her office grinds to a halt when he’s in Springfield.

On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that our disinterested alderman simply wasn’t aware that the groundbreaking had been scheduled.

In any event, her announcement included a drawing of the park that differs from the one she presented months ago. The Arboretum greeting visitors at Devon has been modified, and the three benches formerly along the pathway are not in evidence. The two fitness stations have been moved, and the “passive green space” looks more like an athletic field, its southwest end free of trees and shrubbery. There’s no sight of the fence on the western border that is so clear on the original drawing.

No word yet on an official name, although I’m sure the alderman has already selected it; “Park 526” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

Of course, we won’t know what we’re getting until we have it. The alderman’s penchant for secrecy guarantees that nobody will know anything about how this turns out until the ribbon-cutting, which will occur just in time for the 2019 election campaign. Between the park and the new library, the alderman will be able to claim two major building projects on opposite ends of the ward–just in time to point them out to voters. It worked after the first term.

But will it work again?

Park 526

Last night’s meeting at the alderman’s office about our newest park, Park 526, was very informative. As you can see from the rendering available at the meeting, the former “eyesore” at Devon and McCormick will become a beautiful park open to the public around this time next year. Park 526 Rendering

Current plans do not include a playground. Instead, the park is envisioned as a quiet space at the western gateway to West Ridge. It continues the existing bike path along the waterway, and includes a walking trail with three benches for rest stops. There will be a small hill and a water fountain, with open space for picnics on the grass. The open space is not meant for organized league sports, although programming for the park has yet to be determined. It’s possible that some families will choose to use the space for soccer, for example.

Native trees will grace the north entrance, and a decorative four-foot fence will enclose the space, with entry and exit portals on the north and sound ends of the park. t’s believed that urrent lighting should prove sufficient for the space. There will be some exercise stations, similar to what currently exists at Warren Park, but no furniture other than the benches due to concerns about vandalism and theft. Because the park will not have any staff, there will be no toilet facilities.

At some point a pedestrian-biker bridge will be built across Devon so walkers and riders will not have to cross the busy highway. There are currently ten parking spaces across Devon near the canoe launch; it is expected that no more than a couple of spaces will be added. It’s expected that shoppers at Home Depot and Lincoln Village who decide to stop at the park will be able to remain in the shopping center parking lots.

The next steps include hiring engineering services, obtaining permits, and obtaining work bids over the Fall and Winter of 2016-2017, with work set to begin in Spring. The alderman was able to make $600,000 in TIF funds available for the park, and Banner Storage, which will turn the theater into a storage facility on the park’s south border, promised to contribute $10,000 for playground equipment. However, it was stated several times that Park 526 is envisioned as a “passive park,” so the question of attractions for children is unsettled.

The car wash has been demolished and Banner is still in the process of obtaining permits for its building. The Chicago Park District has a 66-year, perpetually-renewable lease on the new park.

It will, of course, at some point need a name other than “Park 526.” Perhaps neighborhood school children could be involved in choosing a name. I think it would be nice if the park were named for Bernie Stone, our longest-serving alderman, or Rabbi Wolf, who made the park possible.

It will be a nice addition to the neighborhood.