Garfield Park in Chicago’s Garfield Park neighborhood on January 18, 2021. (Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago)

Several attractions at Garfield Park will soon be improved, following a unanimous vote on June 25 by City Council to approve the renovations.

The plan will dedicate $8.9 million from the area’s special tax increment financing district to allow the Park District to renovate the park’s field house, make improvements to the Little League stadium, redesign the water gardens and restore the dilapidated powerhouse and stables. The funds will also be used to revamp the indoor children’s garden at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

“With Garfield Park being probably one of the largest parks on the West Side and one of the gems of the city … this major investment on the West Side of Chicago is great,” said Ald. Jason Ervin (28th).

Members of the Garfield Park Advisory Council commended the investment into the park, but criticized the Park District for leaving the group out of the decision-making process.

The council is a volunteer group designated by the city as a community voice for matters related to the park, but members said they weren’t invited to participate in the design of the park’s improvement plan.

“How are we on an advisory council and we don’t know about this $9 million?” said Carol Johnson, the secretary for the Garfield Park Advisory Council.

Design sketches for the Children’s Garden at the Conservatory. (Provided)

“As the advisory council for the community, we should have some input on these decisions,” Johnson said.

At the City Council meeting where the plan was approved, Ervin said the project was built from efforts of the Garfield Park Advisory Council to identify key issues and amenities that needed to be renovated at the park.

“I want to thank … primarily the Garfield Park Advisory Council for bringing a lot of these items to our attention, as well as through their framework planning for identifying the needs of the park.”

The plan will spend $5 million to repurpose the former stables and powerhouse at the park into an industrial arts center. The facility will have galleries, production studios and places designed to host arts programs and workforce training opportunities.

Existing Little League fields in the park at the corner of Jackson and Hamlin Boulevards will also be renovated with dugouts, bleachers and lighting. A turf field could be added as well, Park District spokesperson Irene Tostado said.

“The improvements, it could give us a sense of pride in our community and a positive place to play. It can bring more people to the parks and kind of control the activities at night with the lighting,” said Garfield Park Little League President Jerry Mack.

Athletic programs and quality recreational facilities are vital for kids to have on the West Side because those youth activities help “keep them engaged and keep them out of harm’s way,” Mack said.

Renovations to the Garfield Park Field House and Cultural Center will help to preserve the architecture of the notable gold dome by fixing up the drainage and gutter systems on the building. The Park District will also improve the building’s auditorium with acoustic and lighting renovations, Tostado said.

The funds will also redesign the park’s water court and garden, which was originally designed by Jens Jensen, the Danish landscape architect who also designed the Garfield Park Conservatory. The water court was renovated 15 years ago, Park District officials said, but they quickly fell into disrepair again and are currently unused.

The redesign of the water court will repurpose the two ponds and repave the surrounding concrete to “reimagine the use of these spaces while honoring their historic spirit,” Tostado said.

Justin Laurence contributed to this report.

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