Mayor Emanuel, Chicago Park District Announce ‘Save Chicago’s Treasures’ Initiaitive

$26 million investment to rehab Chicago’s neighborhood gems

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Park District Superintendent Michael P. Kelly, Alderman Emma Mitts (37) and elected state officials today announced $26 million in improvements to 20 aging Park District facilities as part of the new “Save Chicago’s Treasures” initiative.

“Some of our field houses are more than 100 years old,” Mayor Emanuel said. “This is why ‘Save Chicago’s Treasures’ is so critical. Maintaining the city’s historic neighborhood gems are the essential investments that improve the quality of life for residents, build strong neighborhoods and create a better Chicago.”

The program will be paid for by Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) grant funding and Park District capital funds. The state grant funding had been frozen since 2015, but is now available after being released by the state of Illinois.

“Thanks to the strong advocacy and support of the elected officials represented today, we are able to maintain our existing facilities for the families in our communities,” said Kelly. “While prior year grants are now being honored, the future of these grant programs remains uncertain. We must continue advocating to retain these important programs and to obligate funds for park improvement projects in future year budgets.”

While the scope of each project varies, planned work involves major rehabilitation, including roof restoration, masonry improvements and ADA accessibility.

“Residents of the 37th ward are excited for the field house and pool improvements coming to La Follette Park,” Alderman Mitts said. “It has been an Austin community staple for more than 80 years that is heavily utilized.”

“These funds are much needed to improve neighborhood assets in the 4th Senate District,” State Senator Kimberly Lightford said. “These are the places where communities gather and children play. We must keep them maintained.”

“Today is a perfect partnership between the city and the state for families in the Austin Community,” State Representative La Shawn Ford. “Austin has suffered from the state’s non budget and lack of profits have and continue to close their doors, so investing in historic community parks is a wise investment of tax payers dollars. I commend the Mayor and the Chicago Park District for listening to the community and answering the call to make the necessary improvements to public parks in Austin.”

“Save Chicago’s Treasures” includes the following locations:

  • Archer Park
  • Austin Town Hall Park
  • Columbus Park
  • Douglas Park
  • Dvorak Park
  • Eckhart Park
  • Fosco Park
  • Hamilton Park
  • Harrison Park
  • Hostein Park
  • La Follette Park
  • Lincoln Cultural Park
  • Mann Natatorium
  • McKinley Park
  • Palmer Park
  • Ridge Park
  • River Park
  • Robichaux Park
  • South Side Cultural Center
  • West Pullman Park

Mayor Emanuel Announces Renovation and Modernization of Whitney M. Young, Jr. Library

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon today joined Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th) to announce the complete renovation and modernization of the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Library, 7901 S. King Drive. The nearly $12 million investment will be managed by the Public Building Commission (PBC) and will incorporate the exterior walls of the existing structure into the envelope of the new building.

“Libraries are a place to read, learn, discover, and explore, which is what makes them fixtures in communities across the city,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Whether it’s new educational opportunities for youth or the modernization of a branch like Whitney Young, we are going to make sure our libraries continue to grow so they can help our communities grow as well.”

The new branch will provide the neighborhood with a modern library space that continues to serve as an essential community anchor, providing critical services and resources to meet a variety of local needs. Features will include an early learning center for children, a YOUmedia digital media lab for teens, additional seating, new state-of-the-art furniture and equipment, additional meeting and study spaces, refreshed collections, ADA accessibility throughout the building and a computer commons that will add computer capacity.

Renovation plans include a 3,000-5,000 square foot expansion, bringing the branch to 14,000-16,000 square feet. The building will be retrofit for energy efficient mechanical systems and improved lighting.

“We are thrilled to offer the community this much-needed and highly anticipated branch,” said Commissioner Brian Bannon. “The expanded building will include more flexible space to meet the needs of all ages.”

Additionally, the new branch will have digital skills training available to patrons of any age through the Library’s CyberNavigator program, which recently expanded to every neighborhood in the city through the Connect Chicago initiative.

The Chicago Public Library is working in collaboration with the Cook Chicago Workforce Partnership to design targeted workforce development services to be available at the new. The new Whitney Young Library is expected to be complete in 2018.

This is the first in what will be a number of library development projects and underscores major programmatic news from Chicago Public Library last week – including the expansion of early learning centers in libraries and the expansion of digital literacy training to nearly every library in Chicago.

PBC and CPL Announce Two Emerging Architects to Lead the Early Educational Learning Expansion Project in Branch Libraries

The Public Building Commission (PBC) and Chicago Public Library (CPL) announced two Architect of Record (AOR) appointments of emerging minority architectural firms to provide design services for the Early Learning Educational Investment project. Chicago-based Onyx Architects and Studio ARQ will each serve as AOR for branch libraries throughout the City as part of the investment effort.

The scope of the project will include interior renovations within the children’s library of up to 17 regional and branch libraries that incorporates science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with the five practices of early learning — Talk, Sing, Read, Write and Play. The renovations are made possible because of a $2.5 million investment from Exelon Corporation, through the Chicago Public Library Foundation: the largest single gift ever made to the early learning initiatives at CPL. The expansion supports joint goals of the Library, the City of Chicago, and Mayor Emanuel to provide access to quality early educational programming year round.

“This opportunity allows us to embed STEM design directly into our library spaces while using community-based architects with a diverse and impressive portfolio of experience,” said CPL Commissioner Brian Bannon.

One of the PBC’s 2016 Initiatives is to directly affect capacity building within professional services. To that end, the PBC and CPL identified this Early Learning Expansion project as the prime opportunity to introduce small architectural firms to a new client and market sector – the Chicago Public Library.

“For Onyx, this opportunity represents the chance to establish a relationship with the Public Building Commission as a prime consultant after several successful efforts as a sub-consultant” said Victor Simpkins, Principal of Onyx Architects. Simpkins continued, “This project allows our firm to directly impact the early learning environment of our city’s children. We look forward to executing exceptional design concepts for the PBC and CPL.”

“The PBC is committed to increasing contracting opportunities for small, Minority and Women Business Enterprises” said Felicia S. Davis, Executive Director of the PBC. “These AOR appointments will allow emerging design leaders to showcase their ability to proficiently design a project while exposing firms to a new market sector – libraries. This sort of direct capacity-building reaffirms the PBC’s commitment to economic diversity and sustainability in the delivery of its projects.”

Cesar Santoy, Principal of Studio ARQ, recognizes this opportunity as “a significant milestone for our evolving firm that will help build our professional capacity and expand our library practice expertise. As advocates of diversity and inclusion, we applaud the PBC’s Executive Director, Felicia Davis, for leading the charge of identifying meaningful and impactful design opportunities for small, minority-owned architectural firms.”

The firms are scheduled to begin designing the early learning centers in spring 2016 with construction concluding by year’s end.

PBC Earns Award from Government Finance Officers Association

Recognition is the Sixth Consecutive for PBC

The Public Building Commission (PBC) announced today that for the sixth consecutive year, the PBC has been awarded the prestigious Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) in recognition of outstanding accounting and financial reporting and management.

The award came after the PBC submitted its annual Comprehensive Annual Financial Report or CAFR for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2014.

“This is the highest form of recognition that a government agency can receive for its accounting and financial reporting and management I am proud that the PBC has once again been acknowledged for its excellent work in this area,” said Felicia S. Davis, Executive Director of the Public Building Commission. “As the GFOA noted in conveying the certificate to us, this represents a ‘significant accomplishment’ and I am pleased that our staff once again has been able to meet the high standards set by the GFOA. As a public developer, we are entrusted with public resources and we understand the importance of this responsibility. This recognition from the GFOA demonstrates that we remain committed to the highest level of accountability and transparency in managing and reporting how we spend taxpayer-supported dollars.”

The GFOA announced the award in late December, and the official certificate of achievement was presented to the PBC Board of Commissioners at its regular monthly meeting on January 12. The GFOA noted that the PBC’s submittal of its comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) demonstrates that it is working in the “spirit of full disclosure.”