Crusader staff report
A golf official who doesn’t live in South Shore or Woodlawn has recommended closing the portion of Marquette Park Drive that slices through Jackson Park. While efforts to create a high caliber golf course are underway in Jackson Park, longtime users of two basketball courts may have no place to park.
Brian Hogan, co-founder of the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance, said golf course architects from Tiger Woods’ firm have determined that a project that aims to merge the South Shore and Jackson Park golf courses won’t work unless the road is closed between Cornell and Lake Shore Drive.
The news comes as momentum builds for the $500 million Obama Presidential Center, after former President Barack Obama unveiled design plans at the South Shore Cultural Center last week. But skeptics believe there were plans to close Marquette Drive all along and that the recommendation was a perfectly timed, calculated attempt to capitalize on the momentum for the presidential facility.
City and Obama officials say the plans to close Marquette Drive in Jackson Park is because of the golf course merger, but residents believe Obama Foundation officials are pushing for the closure too, to create an attraction, and a $30 million championship golf course for the elite.
Obama has already called for closing Cornell Drive in an effort to return Jackson Park to its original designs that were created during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and Exposition.
With plans to build an underground garage at the Presidential Center, Obama aimed to address traffic concerns from residents who said closing Cornell Drive would increase traffic on Stony Island. The foundation has floated the idea of pedestrianizing Cornell, generally a six-lane road that serves as a major barrier between the east and west sides of the park, between 60th and 67th.
The library would be located between Stony Island and Cornell, 60th and 63rd Street. A running track, football field, and baseball diamonds would be removed, forcing sports leagues to find new places to play.
Residents are concerned that more traffic congestion would build up on Stony Island if Marquette Drive in Jackson Park is closed. With access to Lake Shore Drive cut off, drivers would be forced to take 67th Street to Jeffrey, increasing traffic on two roads that are already heavily used.
There are also two popular basketball courts next to the intersection of Cornell and Marquette Drive. Players park their cars on the south side of Marquette Drive. During the summer months, this portion of Marquette Drive is heavily used for parking space. It’s not clear how the closing of Marquette Drive will affect the court’s use or where players would park their cars.
“Marquette Drive bisects right through two large portions of Jackson Park and cuts it into two very narrow strips. Closing that road would connect more green space for the availability of golf holes. We don’t think we could build the character of open course that Tiger Woods Design is looking to do, the way Marquette limits the direction of play,” Hogan said Monday.
“If we have the ability of routing golf holes both from north to south and east to west in that portion, it will also open what we hope to be expanded youth programs and a short-course learning area. It adds to the green space we’re able to work with.”
Since the golf course merger was proposed, residents in South Shore and Woodlawn have criticized Chicago Park District Superintendent Mark Kelly for not informing the public about the project. No public meeting was held about the project and there are concerns that the new golf course fees will be too expensive, although officials say they will remain affordable.
Construction on the new golf course was set to begin this spring, but fundraising plans hit a snag when private donors waited to see the results of the design and engineering studies before writing their checks.
With the budget still tight at the Chicago Park District, 80 percent of private money will be used to pay for the new golf course.