The City is about to expand and refresh Donovan Park, a recreational staple of the 11th Ward for more than 60 years.
Buying a small parcel of land, infusing multi-source funding, and seeking community input will bring new life to what already is a popular Bridgeport neighborhood resource at 3620 S. Lituanica Ave.
The cost to acquire just less than a half-acre of additional land at the southeast corner of Lituanica and 36th Street, as well as the clean and green cleanup process, totals $1.9 million, according to the Chicago Park District. Funding sources consist of $850,000 from tax increment financing funds, $377,171 from Open Space Impact fees (a City program to create public open spaces), $500,000 from the Park District, and almost $173,000 from the Aldermanic Menu Program (under which the City allocates funding to each ward for infrastructure needs).
Ald. Patrick Thompson (11th Ward) noted the City also has earmarked at least $10 million for a new fieldhouse.
“There was a lot of vision required in putting together this quilt of funding,” Thompson said. “This park is an important part of the community because it offers so much to those who have been here for decades and for the growing population. We have seen a lot of residential growth. Also, there has been a lot of reinvestment in businesses and schools.”
Thompson said that growth has fueled the need to upgrade the fieldhouse.
“With the improvements made at other parks like McGuane, there is a need at Donovan to upgrade with a gymnasium and more,” Thompson said.
The current park spans almost three acres and offers outdoor amenities including baseball fields, basketball courts, open athletic fields, playgrounds that the City last renovated in 2013, and a water spray feature.
“Part of the plan is to build a new water feature that includes up-to-date splash along with the fieldhouse,” Thompson said.
The park’s expansion will require closing off a portion of Lituanica Avenue that separates the current land from the newly acquired adjacent parcel.
“We’ll need to work with the City to see how we can do that without disturbing any services such as garbage collection,” he said.
Thompson said he has not set community meetings yet to help determine fieldhouse details but hopes to hold some this summer.
His ongoing interest in the project stems from his youth, as “Donovan was a place I used to go to all the time when I was growing up,” Thompson said. “I have a lot of good memories of my time there.”
Community activists called Donovan Park upgrades a welcome improvement.
“Seeing more land devoted to parks is a good thing,” said Zach Savella Stallard, pastor of Cornerstone Anglican Church. “Hopefully, there will be even more and better programs. Just like it has been a positive thing for McGuane Park when that fieldhouse was improved.”
Ellen Grimes, a Bridgeport Alliance member, said the value in expanding Donovan comes in how the community uses open land.
“I’m environmentally focused, so I believe rethinking green space has its benefits,” Grimes said. “All kinds of green space development is welcome.”
Grimes said that, in her experience, South Side park development actually has been more robust than that of the North Side.
She pointed to “a lot of new construction near the park” and noted, “There are a lot of new families moving into townhouses and family homes. It is making the neighborhood demographically more diverse. I know it’s important to get younger kids outside to play, even in the depths of winter.”
Formerly Sangamon Park, the City renamed it Donovan Park in 1957 in honor of Engine 29 Captain George L. Donovan who, along with two other firefighters, lost his life in a factory explosion at the Lawrence Corporation, a shortening manufacturer. Donovan was an old friend and neighbor of former Mayor Richard J. Daley.
Contact Bridgeport Alliance via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For Stallard and the Cornerstone Anglican Church, log on to cornerstonechicago.com/Bridgeport. For Thompson, call (773) 254-6677.