Jacob Playlot: CTA Plans For Sale Shock Community

April 3, 2012
Last week Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a $7 Billion infrastructure plan for the city. $290 Million of the $7 Billion would be to purchase 180 acres of additional park space, it was noted. Meanwhile, in a corner of Rockwell Crossing, a vacant lot composed of parts of three city lots was put up for sale. It could be a beautiful site, overlooking the Chicago River at the point where the Brown Line crosses the North Channel. It also sits adjacent to Jacob Playlot and the site is owned by the Chicago Transit Authority. A neighbor to the south of the tracks told The Bulldog the site would be a great site for a residence. Standing in her garden, which she said reminded her of living in Wisconsin's woods, she said living next to the Brown Line is not an issue. And while the river bridge is adorned with recent graffitti, she said illegal use of the river bank is not an issue. “There's a lot of poison ivy back there,” she noted, advising us to watch ourselves as we crawled down to the river bank. Three giant trees dominate the site that rises from street level to track level, about eight or so feet above the sidewalk. The site appears to be used for fill. Broken concrete and aggregate prevent any serious vegetation except for the bushes along the perimeter. The three trees, apparently cottonwood, stand as a sign of how long it has been since anyone seriously cared about the site. A chain-link fence topped with barbed wire protects the property from casual intruders. “The ideal thing would be for the CTA to hold the property. It is overgrown. They could lease it to the playlot. It would make sense to enlarge the playlot,” Horner Park Advisory Council founder John O'Connell said. Noting he is not an officer, O'Connell said the Jacob playlot neighbors have worked for years to gain access to the land, owned by the CTA. The land has long been held by the CTA. Site maps indicate its use by CTA may extend back to the creation of the Ravenswood Branch. During the Brown Line Construction project the site was used for a temporary bridge and to store materials used for the construction of Rockwell and Francisco stations according to O'Connell. “Last we heard, a park district employee said (a Jacob expansion) was a dead deal,” O'Connell said. “We've been saying it would be a great addition to the Jacob Playlot. Several years ago the CTA claimed they needed the property when they rebuilt the bridge. O'Connell noted the CTA was looking for $1 Million minimum for the property. The Horner Park Advisory Council, according to its treasurers report, has less than $18 thousand. At a meeting of the council held at Horner Park Monday night, Jacob dominated conversation with representatives from the Greater Rockwell Organization, the Ravenswood Manor Improvement Association, the Ravenswood Garden Home Owners Association and the other groups offering verbal support for an effort to derail a private sale by the CTA. “The CTA did the wrong thing” putting the site up for sale, a participant declared. The council oppose the sale of the lot. The Advisory Council supports the CTA property become an extension of Jacob Playlot it was declared by a vote. The CTA and the Chicago Park District have not yet replied to requests for comment. Ald. Ameya Pawar noted he plans to discuss the situation with Ald. Pat O'Connor. O'Connor is out of the country till next week, we were told. Ald. Mell has not replied to requests for comment. The mayor's office has not yet replied to requests for comment. Visit the Friends of Jacob Park on OhSoWe Read the Phase I Environmental Study of the site Read the CTA Advertisement offering to sell the land Read the US Environmental Protection Agency page on the only contaminant found at the site: Creosote Read the Mayor's $7 Billion Infrastructure Announcement Visit the Horner Park Advisory Council site Visit the Greater Rockwell Organization site Visit our FaceBook page for more site photos (May take time to upload)    

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One Response to Jacob Playlot: CTA Plans For Sale Shock Community

  1. Mark Dawson on April 7, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I gather the CTA needs the cash. But they already have large parcels for sale at prime development locations next to the Paulina stop on Lincoln Avenue and at the Belmont L stop. Those have been avaialble since the CTA finished construction on the Brown Line over two years ago. Maybe this parcel would find a buyer. But that leads to the questionhy would the CTA want to part with a property that they have used three times in the last 30 years or as a staging area for materials and equipment for construction projects? Can the CTA explain what they plan to do with their hardware and supplies the next time they need to to replace rails between Kimball and Western? I’m not impressed with the idea of expanding Jacob Playlot, frankly–those park development dollars would be better invested elsewhere. But it makes no sense to me that the CTA would want to sell this strategic piece of real estate.