Seven of 500 submissions to each receive $1.5 million city infrastructure improvement grants

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Matthew Gallistel Language Academy, 10347 S. Ewing Ave. (Google Maps)

Seven organizations have each been selected to receive as much as $1.5 million each through the Chicago Works Community Challenge These projects will reinforce the roles of public facilities as neighborhood anchors throughout the city, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a Jan. 18 statement.

Lightfoot launched the initiative in May 2021 to give Chicago residents an opportunity to tell the city what public investments they wanted to see prioritized in their neighborhoods. The winning projects, valued up to $1.5 million each, will improve four Chicago Park District (CPD) facilities, a pair of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) facilities, and a Chicago Public Library (CPL) branch.

“As city leaders, one of the most impactful actions we can take is giving our residents the resources they need to transform their own neighborhoods,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “This is one of the driving principles behind the Chicago Works Community Challenge, which demonstrates our commitment to empowering residents and improving the facilities they rely on every single day. I want to thank everyone who submitted a proposal for review, extend a huge congratulations to our winners, and am beyond excited to see their projects come to fruition in the very near future.”

The Chicago Works Community Challenge invited neighborhood stakeholders to submit ideas for improvements to public parks, schools, libraries, and City-owned residential lots.  The city received nearly 500 submissions through an online application process last summer. A City of Chicago selection committee evaluated the applications and short-listed 21 projects for consideration. The semi-finalists were presented for public review during regional planning meetings in the fall that included more than 1,000 attendees.

The evaluation committee selected the winning projects this winter based on project viability, facility need, neighborhood activation, and the input of nearly 7,500 survey respondents.

The winning proposals, by region, include:

Matthew Gallistel Language Academy, 10347 S. Ewing Ave.  Far South 

Submitted by Rogelio Lopez, a school counselor at Gallistel Language Academy, the project will modernize an antiquated playground with contemporary climbing equipment, landscaping, and areas for active and passive recreation. The work will also include the creation of new spaces for outdoor instruction and community socialization.

Rainbow Beach Park, 3111 E. 77th St.  Southeast 

Submitted by Carolyn Vazquez, a racquetball advocate and volunteer coach, the project will repair an outdoor handball and racquetball complex with new play surfaces, seating areas, and landscaping.The work is also expected to include clubhouse improvements involving the building roof, plumbing, windows, ADA-accessible entrances, and artwork.

Claremont STEM Academy Playground, 2300 W. 64th St.  Southwest 

Submitted by Layla Treuhaft-Ali, a middle school teacher at Claremont Academy, the project will transform the school’s unimproved lawn spaces with a cohesive playground that provides structure for recreation for students and neighbors, along with opportunities for outdoor learning.

Columbus Park, 500 S. Central Ave.  West 

Submitted by Samantha Jordan, an Austin resident and artist, the multi-dimensional proposed enhancements include an outdoor stage for live performances and movies; upgrades to existing basketball and tennis courts; select landscaping and accessibility improvements; and improvements to natural spaces that foster social interaction.

Warren Park, 6601 N. Western Ave.  North 

Submitted by Pamela Stauffer on behalf of the Warren Park Advisory Council, the project includes site improvements for activities such as cricket, horseshoes, bocce, and pickleball to foster multi-generational engagement and healthy lifestyles.

Kelvyn Park, 4438 W. Wrightwood Ave.  Northwest 

Submitted by Casey Guerra on behalf of the Kelvyn Park Advisory Council, the project will repair the roof of the park fieldhouse and auditorium and make long-needed building upgrades, including ADA accessibility.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, 3436 S. King Dr.  Central 

Submitted by Janell Nelson, a Douglas/Bronzeville neighborhood parent, the project will renovate the library’s children’s section to foster family-based learning and engagement. The work is expected to include greater emphasis on Dr. King’s legacy in Chicago, as well as the beautification of select interior and exterior public spaces to help build stronger community relations.

Project scopes and designs are expected to be finalized and approved by the respective agencies later this year, with work expected to start in late 2022 or early 2023.

The 14 runners-up projects will be considered for implementation as funding becomes available.

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