The Expansion of Haas Park
Principle: Develop a vision
By Meg MacIver
For those who live in cities, parks are places to breathe, relax, and play - green reprieves from the pressures of urban life. The best parks are full of people talking and walking, resting on benches, and watching kids run. Even when the fields are full and the playgrounds packed, in the park the sound of traffic hushes and it feels like there is room to exhale.
Haas Park Advisory Council
In some communities, though, green space is at such a premium that even the parks feel congested. That was the case in Haas Park, on the southeast side of Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood. "There was a little tiny basketball field, a baseball field, and a few other fields," said Anthony Porfirio, president of the Haas Park Advisory Council. "All of them were so heavily used every day that we had no breathing space, no open space."
It's no wonder Haas Park was so busy: Logan Square has some of the least green space of any area of the city. "You have Holstein Park, which is over a mile away, and of course there is Humboldt Park, but that's about four miles south," explained Porfirio. "Haas Park is basically the green space for our community."
About a decade ago, the Haas Park Advisory Council, a small but dedicated group of community leaders, met to develop a vision fo rthe park's expansion. They knew what they wanted - more room so the many activities organized by the park district and community members could flourish. They just weren't sure how they would get it.
"For years, we wanted to expand but there was no place to go," said Porfirio. Buildings hemmed in the park on all sides. "It's totally landlocked."
Haas Park Advisory Council
The story of the park's expansion has been neither short nor easy - and it's far from over. The first attempt to push east by acquiring a commercial corridor was blocked by the businesses that would have been displaced. A few years later when the Worldwide Distributor Building, whihc borders the park on the West, came up for sale, community leaders began to recruit partners from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to buy it. LISC (the Local Initiatives Support Corporation) provided the first money for the project by offering a forgivable loan to the Trust for Public Land. Additional support came from the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and Ald. Manny Flores (1st Ward). This upfront money bought the Haas Park Advisory Council the time it needed to get a commitment from the Chicago Park District to purchase the building for the park's expansion.
About a year after the warehouse was acquired in 2005, it was demolished to make room for a LEED-certified field-house, which will be built in its place during the second phase of park expansion. Right now, bulldozers crawl over the site, moving earth and bringing Logan Square one step closer to what they've envisioned: an enriched and enlarged Haas Park.
Throughout the sometimes trying process of expansion, the Haas Park Advisory Council has never lost sight of its goal. Together, and with the help of many partners, they are working toward a vibrant and spacious park where members of the Logan Square community can all come together to play, relax, and breathe.