Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman George Cardenas, State Senator Tony Munoz, Congressman Luis Guitierrez and Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly joined community leaders today to cut the ribbon on the La Villita Park in Little Village. The 22-acre site, formerly home to Celotex, is the largest USEPA superfund to park conversion in a major American city.
“Four years ago, this site was a toxic brownfield that sat in the shadow of a coal plant belching pollutants into this community. Today, that coal plant has been shut down and this land has been transformed to provide 22 acres of green space that will be used by children and families to stay active and healthy,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Every child deserves to have safe places to play and stay active, regardless of their zip code. This new park has created a variety new recreational opportunities for the thousands of children living in South Lawndale and nearby Brighton Park.”
The park was developed with input gathered at more than a dozen stakeholder and public meetings. Park features include artificial turf soccer fields with sports lighting; two basketball courts; a skate park; a large playground with rubber safety surfacing and water spray feature; promenade through the park; a multi-use trail; and landscape elements throughout the park. All areas of the park are now open, with the exception of a natural grass baseball and softball field and comfort station with concession and restrooms.
“The development of this park epitomizes the work we do on behalf the families and children of Chicago,” said Superintendent Kelly. “South Lawndale now has 22 new acres of open space with incredible features that will strengthen the community and the quality of life for those who live here.”
Before the opening of La Villita, the South Lawndale community ranked the number two out of 77 community areas most in need of open space, as it had an open space deficit of 78.09 acres. La Villita reduces the open space deficit to 56.67 acres, and South Lawndale now ranks number seven out of 77 with respect to open space need. With the opening of La Villita, the 5,800 families in South Lawndale with a child under the age of six years old will now live within walking distance to this park. Children and families in Brighton Park, which is the community ranked number one out of 77 areas most in need of open space, will also benefit from this nearby park development.
“Our efforts have facilitated an incredible transformation process and a 22 acre active green space has emerged,” said Alderman Cardenas. “I am tremendously proud of our Little Village community for their resolve and look forward to all the benefits and activities to come.”
“I’m pleased to partner with Mayor Emanuel on the building of this wonderful resource,” said Senator Munoz. “This new open space was much needed and much deserved. The thousands of families living in the surrounding area now have a place to come together as a community to exercise, play, and be active for years to come.”
The total cost of the park was nearly $19 million, split between the City, the Chicago Park District state and two state grants: Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD).
Under Mayor Emanuel’s leadership, Chicago’s park system has drastically expanded with the addition of nearly 1,000 acres of new park land, 27 new turf field, 17 new parks, 11 new community facilities, 150 refurbished playgrounds and more than $500 million in capital investment from public and private sources. Earlier this year, the Park District won the 2014 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management. This is the first time Chicago or any urban park district has received this prestigious award.