Printers Row Park now has that designation as its official name, thanks to the recent approval from the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners.
Local residents commonly have referred to the modest parcel of land, barely more than a one-third acre at 632 to 708 S. Dearborn St., as Printers Row Park since the district dedicated it as one of its own in 2009. The commissioners unanimously approved the appeal by its Park Advisory Council (PAC) to retire the official Park No. 543 moniker for the site.
PAC president Jim Rice said his organization applied for the official name in December 2019. Community meetings and a park district online 45-day comment period generated support and no objections.
He said locals have dubbed the land Printers Row Park for years and noted Google Maps already recognizes the name.
“We tried to formalize the process through park district rules,” Rice said. “It has taken a little longer because of coronavirus. A lot of people will be happy because the park is a point of pride.”
That pride fuels the volunteer groups who have kept the park clean and provide seasonal gardening. Rice said the work helped form an informal council for more than a decade.
Before virus-related cancelations, the park hosted an annual book fair and art fair. Its 2020 farmers market took place through mid-October.
As the next step in the park’s formal naming, workers will erect a sign; Rice and City officials expect the new sign’s placement will occur as part of a special event.
“I’m sure we will have one when it is safe to do so,” Rice said.
Prentice Butler, chief of staff for 4th Ward Ald. Sophia King, said the alderman has supported making the park’s accepted name its formal designation from the beginning.
In a Dec. 3, 2019, letter of support to Chicago Park District CEO Daniel Kelly, King said the name change “would put the park’s official name in line with the community’s understanding of it.”
Butler said King looks forward to participating in any event related to the park’s new name.
“The alderman has always supported community engagement, and this would be part of that effort,” Butler said.
Jackie Guthrie, park supervisor to several South Loop and Near West Side parks including Printers Row Park, complimented the PAC effort.
“I definitely applaud the advisory council for being committed to using the park and seeing that it has a formal name,” she said, noting the formalization helps connect the Printers Row PAC to the Chicago Parks Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that supports Chicago’s parks.
Sonia Horvath, the foundation’s outreach and fiscal coordinator, said now that Printers Row PAC is a member, the organization can tap into the foundation’s fundraising and administrative resources.
Added Guthrie, “Formalizing the name also will help draw more attention to the park and hopefully attract even more volunteers throughout that neighborhood. There are a lot of people in the Printers Row neighborhood who appreciate it.”
One of those is Greg Borzo, an author of locally focused books, including Chicago’s Fabulous Fountains. He said former Mayor Richard M. Daley played a role in installing the current fountain at Printers Row Park.
“Daley was working out in a building across the street from the park and noticed the old fountain,” Borzo said. “He didn’t think the fountain belonged there. It was a Victorian style.”
The City removed that fountain, which had been installed in 2008, and reinstalled it at the Chicago Cultural Center. The current fountain provides a more ornamental sculpture Borzo said better reflects the area; architect Edward Windhorst created it in 2009.
Borzo and the PAC’s Jim Rice said the fountain, among other park elements, provides an important neighborhood focal point and noted Printers Row is not a destination park.
“It’s designed to be a flow through to and from the Loop,” he said. “It is bordered by Dearborn and Federal. The design of the park, with its pavers and the rest of the features, invites people to walk through and sit. And a lot of people use it.”
“The park livens up the neighborhood,” Borzo said. “It’s a gathering place for people. You often see people you know there. It’s a charming park.”
For the Printers Row Park, call (312) 742-3918. For the Chicago Parks Foundation, call (312) 742-4781. For Alderman King, call (773) 536-8103. For more on the PAC, log on to www.facebook.com/PrintersRowPark/.