Ald. Manuel Flores told Tuesday's East Village Association meeting that he was allocating a sizable amount of his $1.3 million discretionary funds for the year toward reconstructing the playlot at Commercial Park, 1845 W. Rice.
This is an unusual and laudable use of ward earmarks and running unopposed in next month's municipal elections gives him considerable freedom. But at this meeting the alderman held out little hope for more costly park development in his rapidly growing ward.
While he says preliminary discussions are under way with owners of property adjoining Commercial Park, he favors the Chicago Avenue frontage as a potential library site. Across the street, he wants the 13th District police squad (which police have reportedly considered disbanding) to stay in place.
Asked about the Damen Avenue site of Bear Stewart as a potential city purchase, Flores flatly said, "we just don't have the capital for that." Flores said he was interested in retaining Damen Avenue's residential character, but that development was more likely in the 32nd Ward.
A decade of development has brought many new households, yet bid up prices for remaining parcels. Land isn't getting cheaper. Yet Flores did not indicate that any new park development was in discussion, although he suggested nonprofits like suburban wetlands restorer CorLands could be enticed to the table. The Trust for Public Land bought land the park district will repay in the $1 million expansion of Haas Park.
"We have to be smart about what can be done and what can't be done," Flores said, signaling that he'd be looking to neighborhood groups like EVA for cover: "Form a group to work with me and let's get it done."
Flores does see one park opportunity: Reserved parking for the nonprofit I-GO carpools, as part of a plan to consolidate current restricted parking areas under a single zone. He allowed under questioning that many people would be better off hailing cabs.