Mayor Rahm Emanuel launched an ambitious public works program on Thursday that includes a goal of renovating over 300 playgrounds citywide. The project is titled, with apparent limited appreciation for irony, “Chicago Plays”. Chicago Plays has a 5-year implementation schedule that starts with 50 playgrounds slated for refurbishment by November 2013.
The project looks to be a key plank in Mayor Emanuel’s city development agenda. “Throughout Chicago, we’ll invest in better public spaces and build stronger communities,” he said. “The 300 playgrounds we are rebuilding in every neighborhood will be a catalyst for a better quality of life and higher standard of living for every Chicagoan.”
The Chicago Park District will reallocate funds from within its $30 million annual discretionary capital spending budget to pay for the updates. The reallocations include diverting funds originally meant for the construction of fieldhouses. Major savings are expected to be derived by using mulch instead of the more expensive rubber surfaces that surround many existing playground equipment.
The Mayor also touted several specific city park improvements in Thursday’s speech, including: Maggie Daley Park, which is 20 acres of land located just east of Millenium Park; The Northerly Island Project, which is 50 acres of land including a new four-acre pond; The Little Village Park, which is a 22-acre landfill restoration that includes five new athletic fields; Bloomingdale Trail, which will be built on 2.7 miles of an unused elevated train line and will be the longest urban conversion of its type in the world (outdistancing New York City’s High Line by over a mile); and West Ridge Nature Preserve, which is a new 20-acre park and trail built near Rosehill Cemetery that will be funded by a federal grant matched by state tax dollars.