Prospects for presidential library and world class golf raise Woodlawn’s stock
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In the next couple of years, the Woodlawn neighborhood and Mount Carmel High School stand to benefit from two significant developments. Last July, the Obama Foundation announced the choice of Jackson Park as the site of the Obama Presidential Center.
The $500 million project will be constructed along Stony Island Avenue, from 60th Street to 63rd Street. This would place the southern end of the library just two blocks from the school. This proximity to the library offers Mount Carmel an opportunity to develop partnerships with the library that will enrich the educational experience for its students.
According to an Obama Foundation representative: “The Foundation is developing the Obama Presidential Center with the community as a true partner. Our work has only just begun and we are committed to partnering with local organizations, as well as schools and students from across the South Side, as we develop a center for engagement that inspires people and communities to come together to take on the biggest challenges.”
Mr. Ned Hughes, Mount Carmel’s new president, is excited that the library is “interested in working with us on programs that will benefit Mount Carmel students.”
More recently, the city and Chicago Park District unveiled a $30 million proposal to combine the South Shore Golf Course and the Jackson Park Golf Course into a single world class course capable of hosting PGA events. According to news reports, a $1.1 million contract recently was approved by the Park District Board to start research and engineering design work for a possible course. While approvals and funding have yet to be resolved, the idea of a Tiger Woods – designed course in our own backyard has generated a great deal of excitement.
The prospects of these new developments have led some analysts to take another look at Woodlawn. Each year, Redfin ranks the best Chicago neighborhoods in which to invest. This year, according to a Curbed Chicago.com post in January, Woodlawn was ranked alongside Belmont Gardens as the best neighborhoods in Chicago for new investment (https://www.redfin.com/blog/
The area that the foundation chose for construction of the library includes a track and football field, currently used by both Mount Carmel and Hyde Park High School teams. Despite the impact on their programs, many of the MC coaches whose teams will be affected are still pleased with the decision to construct the library.
“It won’t be bad practicing on the Jackson Park grass” noted Mr. Patrick McGarry, who coaches the school’s rugby team, which often uses that football field for practice, at least in light of the fact that “for the next 15 years, the area will be booming.”
The rugby team isn’t the only team that could be affected by the new developments. Currently, Mount Carmel’s golf team uses Glenwoodie Golf Club in Glenwood, Illinois, which is at least a 30 minute drive from the school, as its home course. If the golf course project comes to fruition, the team is hoping to take advantage.
“We still need to make contacts over there, but I would like to keep the team in the (Woodlawn) community,” stated Phil McGovern, head golf coach.
While the city is committed to the library project, and initial design work is underway, the golf course project will need to garner additional public support to move forward. If that support is forthcoming, it won’t be without significant opposition.
Juanita Irizarry, representing the Friends of the Parks, an association that advocates for maintaining public access to all parkland, objects to the lack of community involvement in decisions that are being made.
A recent Chicago Tribune article quoted Irizarry as pointing out that, “When you hold community input sessions at the very last minute, trying to create the appearance of public input, when the park district and the mayor have secretly been putting together a plan for a long time, you create mistrust.”
In addition to the parkland already designated for the presidential library, and the potential changes to Jackson Park ‘s golf course, another potential change was floated in a Tribune article on January 27: the possibility of closing Cornell Drive from 60th to 67th Street in order to create a safe campus area around the library.
Such a move would result in a seamless “campus” between the Museum of Science and Industry, Jackson Park, and the Obama Library, but it could have a significant impact on transportation, especially for the increasing number of Mount Carmel students who travel to school from north side neighborhoods.
While the various plans continue to generate some controversy in the surrounding community, Mount Carmel’s administrators are excited. Principal John Stimler noted that, “Anything that helps the neighborhood helps the school.”
David Lenti, Mount Carmel’s Vice President of Advancement, added that the excitement surrounding the Obama Library and Jackson Park golf course has the potential to generate greater interest in the school, and to validate the “important investments in the future” which so many Mount Carmel alumni and friends make.
(Conor Langs ’17, Jack Lockard ’17 and Kendall Nichols ’18 also contributed to this article.)
Zack Pasciak is currently a senior at Mount Carmel. He is from the Bridgeport area on Chicago's South Side, where he attended Santa Lucia Grade School....