A plan is advancing to purchase the vacant CTA lot adjacent to Jacob Playlot and turn it over to the Park District, the Welles Park Bulldog has learned.
The plan, advanced by Ald. Ameya Pawar and Ald. Patrick O’Connor, would tap Tax Increment Financing funds from the Western North TIF to purchase the land. O’Connor’s office indicated the alderman had drafted a letter to Chicago Transit Authority Chairman Forrest Claypool.
Pawar told The Bulldog he is working with O’Connor on the plan which depends on the use of the TIF funds. The land, which sits between Jacob Playlot and the Brown Line tracks where the tracks cross the Chicago River, was offered for sale by the CTA in March. The community, led by the Friends of Jacob Playlot, had been seeking to obtain control of the land for the playlot for years.
That interest was expressed in a petition to the city from residents that gathered 250 signatures, according to Martin Perdoux, a member of Friends of Jacob Playlot.
The Friends of Jacob Playlot received a call from Ald Pawar,” Perdoux told The Bulldog in an interview two weeks ago. “He said both he and Ald O’Connor want to work out an arrangement to transfer the land to the Chicago Park District.”
Pawar told The Bulldog the two aldermen intend to investigate the use of the Western Ave North TIF. Although the playlot is located outside the TIF district, the TIF could be used for this purpose, Pawar said.
The land, which is currently firmly in the 47th Ward, will be remapped into the 40th Ward starting in 2015, with the 47th Ward surrounding it on two sides. The 33rd
32nd Ward lies across the river.
The CTA indicated the minimum bid for the parcel was $1.4 million.
The Western Ave North TIF had a fund balance of $15,440,620 on December 31, 2010, the most recent annual report published by the city. The TIF has ported out more than $3.8 million in 2009, its funds benefiting other nearby TIFs, in particular a TIF on Clark Street.
The TIF used $3 million to assist 4800 Damen LLC, a company wholly owned by Kent Knebelkamp according to a 2004 Economic Disclosure Filing, to create nine affordable apartments at the 4800 Damen building. Other uses of the TIF include a $2 million Small Business Improvement Fund that reported $981,385 in disbursements since the TIF was started in 1999.
The playlot is in need of help. The extensive work likely to happen if the land is acquired will benefit a forgotten bit of park real estate.
On a bright warm Saturday a week ago two children played on the equipment.
The chips appeared tired and the lot empty.
Composed of two sets of swings, a slide and a swinging bridge, the playlot lost most of a pirate ship over the winter. Four of the twelve swings need replacement. The swinging bridge looks too steep for toddlers. Neighbors told The Bulldog that although they lived within a block of the playlot they preferred walking to Waters School with their children.
That playlot was full of children.
Ben Rainey a neighbor involved in Friends of Jacob Playlot told the Bulldog he felt it was important to preserve the land for its access to the river.
Pawar echoed that concern, noting that the playlot is situated on the North Branch between two multi-million dollar boathouse developments planned by the city.
The Chicago Park District and the CTA indicated they had not yet communicated with each other about the resident’s interest in the land.
The tired equipment of Jacob Playlot
Read the Press Release from the Friends of Jacob Playlot