Thank you to Chris Brooks and Brian Sleet who attended the Midway Plaisance Advisory Council’s (MPAC) August meeting as respresentatives of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC). Thank you also to representatives from the 5th Ward Alderman’s Office – Lanita Ross, and from the Chicago Park District – Heather Gleason, who attended the meeting. CDOT’s attendance was requested by MPAC, unfortunately no CDOT repesentatives were in attendance. However, CDOT is holding two community meetings on 8/23 and 8/24 at the South Shore Cultural Center, 4-8pm, regarding transportation and the OPC.
MPAC members and other community members asked questions and shared positive and negative feedback on the OPC plans that have been shared so far. Full notes from the meeting are below.
MPAC Meeting – Obama Presidential Center
* ~15 Community Members, including MPAC leadership: Bronwyn Nichols-Lodato (MPAC President), Donald McGruder (MPAC Vice-President), Radiah Smith-Donald (MPAC Treasurer/Secretary)
*City representatives: Lanita Ross (5th Ward Alderman’s Office), Heather Gleason (Chicago Park District)
*Representatives from Obama Presidential Center (OPC): Chris Brooks, Brian Sleet
*Hyde Park Herald Reporter: Tonia Hill
Issue Raised: Traffic Concerns: Closing Cornell
- Why not build bridges across Cornell?
- Widening Hayes will mean Jackson Park is still disconnected
OPC Response: Traffic & Cornell
- CDOT will provide analyses
- Considered bridges, but felt that closing Cornell and connecting the park there was more in keeping with the ‘park vision’
- Asked for suggestions re: independent, trustworthy analyses
Issue Raised: Traffic Concerns: Managing Visitor Traffic
- How much additional traffic is expected? -Traffic study needed by independent source
- Flow in & out of parking
- Impact on HP High School and kids crossing Stony Island, etc
OPC Response: Traffic Concerns: Managing Visitor Traffic
- With ‘revitalization’ there will be increased traffic, not sure how much
Issue Raised: Parking Lot on Midway
- Green space – Not a wasteland. Plans made within the community to enhance and maintain the park, e.g.,
- 1999 Master Plan developed through community, UofC, and CPD collaboration; work not completed due to $$, not due to complaints
- MPAC recently awarded a grant to be used to beautify area along Stony Island where the
- Soccer field (currently used for youth soccer, large enough for adult soccer if drainage was addressed)
- Women’s Bench Memorial
- Other parking options already in place nearby, why not build on these?
OPC response: Parking Lot on Midway
- Please share Master Plan including children’s garden plans with OPC
Issue Raised: Connectivity of Parks
- Closing Cornell connects different sections of Jackson Park, but does this lead to the Midway Plaisance and Washington Park feeling less connected, especially as traffic shifts to Stony and runs between them?
- Parking lot structure near the intersection of Midway & Jackson Parks would disconnect Midway from Jackson.
- Concrete ideas for enhancing connectivity?
OPC response: Connectivity of Parks
- Aware of South Parks vision, interested in maintaining this.
- Want to link Obama Library with DuSable Museum and Oriental Institute.
Issue Raised: Transparency
- No sharing of thought process – other ideas that were considered and why they were put aside
- What is the timeline? Community meeting dates?
- Independent checks & balances.
- Concern raised that UofC and City of Chicago are not sufficiently critical in their “independent” analyses
- Concern raised that the Chicago Plan Commission will not rigorously evaluate proposed plan, which could work against the best interests of preserving the beauty and safety of the Midway
- Use website to share more info, including links to other organizations that are involved
OPC Response: Transparency
- Trying to meet with the community
- Plan to go through the official process in the fall – send plan to Chicago Plan Commission
- Will communicate meeting dates to MPAC President (Bronwyn Nichols-Lodato)
- No intention to withhold information, but wary of stirring up trouble by presenting incomplete information
- The website is global, not clear it’s the best way to share Chicago-specific info like soil sample results or street closure debates
Issue Raised: Community Feedback
- Lack of trust that feedback is being genuinely considered
- When official proposal is put forward, will there be sufficient time and opportunity for community response, and for that response to be considered?
OPC Response: Community Feedback
- Asked those in attendance: How to gain trust?
- Not a victory if it gets built and the community hates it
- Eager for feedback – want people to know they will be heard; looking for great ideas
Issue Raised: Impact on Midway
- What is currently planned for the Midway?
- Connectivity of Parks – Midway and Washington will feel more cordoned off
- Any plans to enhance connectivity between parks – improve pathways, historical signage, etc
OPC Response: Impact on Midway
- Plans include: possible parking lot, drop-off for buses, better Metra station
- Connectivity of Parks – aware and interested in the South Parks vision, want connectivity
Issue Raised: Jackson Park concerns (mentioned, but not addressed at this meeting)
- Building shadows, impact on wildlife
- Would like a new track built before the current one is demolished
Next Steps include:
- Re: Traffic (closing Cornell & visitor impact) – Traffic study needs to be completed by independent source
- Re: Parking Lot, Impact on Midway & Park Connectivity – MPAC will share Master Plan so OPC has this information going forward
- Re: Transparency & Community Feedback – MPAC extended an invitation to OPC to attend upcoming meetings; time will be included in the agenda to share updates.
Park District representative comments:
- Please send feedback to the park district – CPD wants to know.
- Definitely care about connectivity of parks.
- Upcoming community meetings: 9/21/17 and 9/25/17 at South Shore Cultural Center (meetings will have same agenda, there are two dates to try to allow for broader attendance)
Issues raised in previous meetings that were not discussed
- Without CDOT in attendance, many concerning questions about traffic and safety went unanswered/partially addressed. Direct communication between CDOT and community members is critical.
- Impact on neighborhood safety (due to increased visitor presence)
- Circle garden – don’t want this gem replaced (according to some older maps, this is part of the Midway)
- MPAC recently received grant to plant hundreds of bulbs on the train track hillsides this fall, and has been reaching out to park district re: rain garden on the Stony Island field to help with drainage
- How best to sustain the vitality and beauty of the Midway for the community?
- Possible benefits to the Midway?