CHICAGO (CBS) — A group in Streeterville is up in arms over a city roads project they say will cut into Seneca Park. They reached out to CBS 2 with concerns about the loss of already limited park space.
“As we become more densely populated the parks become even more valuable,” said Streeterville resident Craig kaiser.
Kaiser said he does not want to see anything happen to Seneca Park.
“Even cutting three or four feet out of it is just unacceptable,” he said.
So with the help of the group he leads, Streeterville Neighborhood Advocates, he said he is fighting the city project that will cut into it.
“I have a problem with taking part of the park for widening the street,” he said.
The project will widen Mies Van Der Rohe Way to add a left turn lane at the intersection with Chicago Avenue, where drivers are consistently using the one lane road as two.
“This has been requested since 2007,” said 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins. “No trees will be cut down as part of this.”
Hopkins said city council approved the plan to add four feet to the other side of the park, where the playground is, so by the end of the project, the space will actually grow by a foot.
Hopkins said the point is to try to make the area safer.
“Side view mirrors being bumped. Bikes will try to squeeze through,” he said. “We get near misses here all the time, so this is a necessary improvement for pedestrian safety.”
The Seneca Park Advisory Council and a spokesperson for Chicago’s Department of Transportation echoed that, saying they’ve heard complaints about the road from people who live there for more than a decade. After several visits and a closer look at the data, the city found adding the turn lane will make the area, known for heavy foot traffic, safer place for everyone.
Marc Shulman, President of The Seneca Park Advisory Council, gave the following statement about the situation:
“Over 8 years ago, the Park District expressed interest in updating the Playground and Park. Numerous community meetings were held over that period of time and Alderman Hopkins got Phase 1 of the Project going with funds from a local development. That plan was approved at a community meeting and there were open issues on the plans for the eastern end with the sidewalk, the fence and any street widening. With COVID-19, our fund raising plans for Phase 2 were put on hold as many of our supporters are in the hospitality and retail business.
The traffic issues are separate and it was understood that the eastern access would change with conditions that no trees would be removed and that the Park would be more accessible.“
The Chicago Department of Transportation gave the below information about the plan:
Alderman Brian Hopkins says they have hosted three community meetings about the Seneca Park Renovation project and hundreds attended. This part of the project, the widening of the road, was discussed at every one of those meetings. Hopkins says they will continue an open community process as the redesign project continues.
CBS 2’s Tara Molina is told the project will take five weeks, but no start date has been set yet.
Kaiser said he plans to be there with his neighborhood group to rally against it Saturday morning.