Demolition of the derelict smokestack of McKinley Park's boiler building is one of many park improvements now underway or in planning.

Park Improvements, Farmers Market Plans Unveiled at Council Meeting

Published May 15, 2019

Hard work is underway at McKinley Park as Chicago Park District staff and the volunteers of the McKinley Park Advisory Council both prep for a new season of events and attend to many formerly neglected areas of the park's operations and facilities. The council meeting on Monday, May 13, brought out council officers, neighbors and new McKinley Park Supervisor Briana Soria for an update on projects and planning for the summer season.

The McKinley Park Farmers Market is officially on, with the minimum number of vendors signed up for the season, said prospective market manager Stef Funk. The first Farmers Market is set for Sunday, June 2, at the William McKinley memorial in the northwest corner of the park. It will run 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday through September 2019.

As with past years' markets, live music and other performance will dovetail off market activities, said council member and key market volunteer Dayna Calderon. Performances lined up so far include past local favorites like the Tsukasa Taiko drummers, the Holy Cross Marimba Ensemble and Aloha Center Chicago, which kicks off the performance series at the first market on June 2. New music artists are coming, too, Calderon said, including the Alpenhorn Trio and the big-rocking jams of the Alison Wonder Band.

McKinley Park Development Council Mural comfort station concept2The McKinley Park Development Council's mural project might find new life on the park's boiler building instead of the comfort station as pictured above.Funk said that market vendors signed up so far include Cedillo's Fresh ProduceRunnin' Mile Hot SauceJohn Bailey HoneyNot Just CookiesYvolina's TamalesPixie Dust SaltsSteve Frank FarmsBroken K RanchMade a Mano and The Urban Canopy. There is still time for vendors to sign up and take advantage of sales at the market, Funk said. The 2019 McKinley Park Farmers Market Vendor Application is available to download on the council's Facebook page and also here:

pdfMcKinley-Park-Farmers-Market_2019_Vendor-Application.pdf129.17 KB

Improvements to Facilities and Operations

A wave of park improvements both large and small has been sweeping through McKinley Park, as noted at past and the most recent council meeting. Soria shared some of the big projects going on right now, including a major overhaul of the park's boiler and utility building, which lies south of the swimming pool, adjacent to Pershing Road. The inactive smokestack is being demolished and removed, Soria said, along with other projects to improve the structure.

In fact, a proposed mural project from the McKinley Park Development Council might find new life as a feature on the boiler building. The development council had originally proposed re-painting the unused comfort station by the park playground with bold, graphic designs based on the sketches of neighborhood kids. Although it looks likely the comfort station will be razed, the mural designs could prospectively be used to decorate the boiler building instead. 

Also in the pipeline are plans for a full overhaul of the gymnastics center and auditorium in the east wing of the field house, and reconfiguring the mens and womens locker rooms to provide better building access, Soria said. Currently, park patrons have to go through the locker rooms to enter both the gymnastics center and the gymnasium in the west wing of the field house, making it impossible to have both locker rooms and the building's large gymnasiums active at the same time.

At the May 13 meeting, council officers coordinated with Soria to purchase an inexpensive marquee pole letter changer to allow updates to the park's marquee sign in the corner of the park at Archer Avenue and Western Boulevard. This is the first time in many years the marquee will have been so employed, council members noted, and is indicative of the large number of small improvements also taking place at the park.

Farmers Market Firsts

For the first time, the McKinley Park Farmers Market will employ paid staffing to help manage and cover the significant work involved with running a weekly seasonal market. The council has advertised details and set up an application process on the position's Facebook Jobs page, including information about pay and requirements. More information is available on the council's job description, which can also be downloaded here:

pdfMcKinley-Park-Farmers-Market_2019_Manager-Application.pdf

Also for the first time, local businesses and organizations are invited to become a Friend of the Market, which includes a booth space for sharing information with the local community for only $15 per Sunday market, council members said. The council's Facebook page links up the 2019 McKinley Park Farmers Market Friend of the Market Application, which is also available to download here:

pdfMcKinley-Park-Farmers-Market_2019_Friend-of-Market-Application.pdf175.82 KB

The next McKinley Park Advisory Council Meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, June 10, at the McKinley Park field house, 2210 W. Pershing Road, Chicago.

McKinley Park Development Council Mural comfort station concept1Another design for the mural project from the McKinley Park Development Council shows how local kids' artwork might be applied to park buildings.


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