Open-space initiatives are underway in Grant Park and other South Loop sites
May 6, 2017

By Marie Balice-Ward

Park officials are planning several open-space innovations for the South Loop area, starting with Grant Park.

Workers are planting a multitude of trees in Grant Park this spring, said Bob O’Neill, president of the Grant Park Conservancy. The new trees will green up the area near the Grant Park Skate Park and continue the row of trees along the north side of the Roosevelt Road sidewalk.

The 21st and Prairie pocket park is part of the DePaul arena development and provides some open space in a congested area.

O’Neill added that the Urban Buddha sculpture erected in October also spruces up the skate park area. Tibetan artist Tashi Norbu created the 15-foot artwork from about 3,500 lbs. of reclaimed wood and dedicated the piece to fighting worldwide deforestation.

O’Neill said the sculpture will remain in place all summer. “This is part of our continued efforts to bring outdoor sculpture to Grant Park in general and specifically the Skate Park,” he explained.

O’Neill’s group also is “negotiating to have roller hockey come to the paved area for the summer of 2017,” Previously, roller hockey has been held at North Avenue Beach, but the group believes bringing it to Grant Park “is a good temporary use of a paved, vacant area that will also raise funds for the Chicago Park District,” he said. “We also want to get a concession there to serve food and drink.”

More linden trees are planned for Butler Field on the east side of Columbus Drive between Monroe Street and Jackson Boulevard, and workers will provide further greening of the Solti Garden on South Michigan Ave., O’Neill said.

More Green Good News

More green good news comes from the Alliance for a Greener South Loop’s Gail Merritt, a South Loop resident and environmentalist. This year, the Columbia College Paper Makers Garden will be improved at 8th Street and South Wabash Avenue, with a large raised bed that South Loop resident volunteers will plant and maintain. The garden features a variety of plants grown to be used as papermaking fiber and art material in Columbia’s Center for Book and Paper Studios.

In addition, the Alliance is gathering signatures on a petition to add a community garden to Park 540 at 2401 S. Federal St. and making a major effort to provide information and education on composting.

The Urban Buddha sculpture near the Grant Park Skate Park reminds people about worldwide deforestation.

The Dearborn Park Townhouse Association provides compost bins, and the South Loop Farmers’ Market, 1936 S. Michigan Ave. provides a compost drop-off service. The South Loop is one of four Chicago areas participating in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded Shared Air/Shared Action initiative. This project gives communities access to lowcost, portable air pollution monitoring devices to obtain information about local air quality and increase engagement around improving it.

Alliance for a Greener South Loop is working with community members to further this project.

ParkPals is a group of community members who consistently maintain and clean up Printers Row Fountain Park at 700 S. Dearborn St. and the Ferd Kramer Garden at 61 W. Polk St., which features a rain garden and swale to manage storm run-off.

Last year, the Chicago Plan Commission approved a “pocket” park at 21st Street and Prairie Avenue as part of the development of the new Wintrust Arena, which will be the site DePaul University’s men’s basketball home games.

Plans called for a water play area, playground, plaza, dog-friendly area including a dog fountain and artificial turf area, and bicycle racks. The park will be completed by August, according to Kevin Lampe, a spokesperson for Alderman Pat Dowell of the 3rd Ward.

Dowell fought for the park because the area lacks open space. The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority will maintain the park.

Also regarding open areas, award-winning journalist and South Loop resident Greg Borzo has a new book, Chicago’s Fabulous Fountains, published by Southern Illinois University Press,