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Park Could Be Beautified, Or Become Parking Lot, In Hyde Park

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Chicago Park District

(Credit: Chicago Park District/CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A small green space with a reputation for seediness in the Hyde Park neighborhood could be beautified and revitalized.

Or it could be turned into a parking lot.

Elm Playlot Park is located at 5215 S. Woodlawn Ave. directly behind the Kimbark Plaza shopping center. The Chicago Park District says the park was created in 1964, as part of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Urban Renewal Project.

But these days, the small green space is largely a source of complaints from Hyde Parkers. The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference says the park is designed “like an afterthought for the planned Kimbark Plaza,” with no logical exit from the back, and bench arrangements that allowed drug dealers and gang members to conceal themselves.

Now, the Hyde Park Herald reports, the Elm Park Advisory Council is planning upgrades they plan to present to Ald. Will Burns (4th). Those plans would keep the park intact, but add a new 6-foot chain link fence on the sides of the park adjacent to the alley, plant modern trees and shrubs, and put in new benches, the Herald reported.

But for more than a decade, some neighbors have had another idea. They want to scrap the park altogether and turn it into a parking lot. The idea was explored as long ago as the late 1990s, according to the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference.

The Herald reports Kimbark Plaza board of directors president Charles Newsome is still pushing for the parking lot. Under Chicago Park District requirements, any green space that is eliminated must be replaced with new green space elsewhere in the city, and Newsome said a new space had been found at 42nd Street and Vincennes Avenue in Bronzeville, the Herald reported.

Even with the Elm Park in its current state, the advisory council has continued to put on community events in the park, including an annual Bike Safety Clinic and Father’s Day Picnic that was held for its second year last month. The advisory council has also staged flower plantings and volunteer garden work days at the park.

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