What is the Capital Improvement Plan?
The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) is the District’s comprehensive multi-year plan for land acquisition and park development, new building construction, building and facility management, park site improvements, and technology and major equipment. The CIP outlines the projects that are expected to take place over the next five years. Capital projects typically have costs of over $10,000, have a life expectancy of at least 5 years, and may result in the creation of a capital asset.
The five-year term of the District's Plan allows the District to maintain long-term fiscal health, lend stability to capital investment planning, meet longer term goals and objectives, establish meaningful timelines for projects, and make clear to the public the District's future investment intentions.
Does the Capital Improvement Plan change?
Yes! The Capital Improvement Plan is a dynamic and evolving guide for spending over a five-year period. The CIP outlines spending priorities and expected schedules and is formed to allow for adjustment over the five-year period. The CIP allows for flexibility, for instance, if actual project expenses are above (or below) a projected budget in the CIP, as new outside funding is granted for specific projects or programs, or as new district priorities develop.
The CIP is published annually to reflect the growth of the Plan each year. View the Capital Improvement Plan here.
How are projects approved for the Capital Improvement Plan?
Throughout the year, the Park District compiles requests for capital improvements from numerous sources. External requests generally come from annual budget hearings, letters, emails, website inquiries, legislators, advisory councils, board meetings, community groups, city agencies, new laws, unfunded mandates, and other similar sources. Internal requests are typically derived from park inspections, facility assessments, the work order system, framework plans, policy initiatives, strategic objectives, and needs identified by recreation, culture, service, planning, construction, and maintenance departments.
The requests are bundled into programs and sub-programs that reflect a shared project type. Establishing programs and sub-programs help the District compare similar projects. Projects that are primarily paving work, for example, are organized first into a program called "site improvements" then second into a sub-program called "paving".
Once the requests are organized, throughout the year as funding is available, internal working groups investigate, analyze, and weigh in on the requests. Internal working groups typically include representatives from the departments responsible for implementing the capital plan: Planning and Development, Capital Construction, Facility Maintenance, Natural Resources, Green Initiatives, Information Technology, Program and Region Staff, Budget, and the Office of the Chief Operating Officer.
Capital requests are investigated to determine the scope, estimated cost, and comparative need for the project. This investigation is combined with research into the source, context, prior assessments, and institutional knowledge of the park and its facilities. Part of this process also includes examining the distribution of past and proposed projects and funds across the District relative to the geographic, legislative, and demographic characteristics of the City.
Capital requests are weighted for relative need. Projects that are urgent may be immediately added to the capital plan. For instance, the need for a new boiler system may be approved immediately to ensure a field house can be heated for the winter or a new wheelchair lift to replace a broken system may be approved immediately to ensure patrons in a wheelchair can continue to access a building.
High-priority projects should be done as funding becomes available. High-priority projects may include a new roof for a building where infiltrating water is limiting programming or causing interior damage or replacement of a broken drinking fountain next to an active athletic field.
Worthwhile projects are to be considered if funding becomes available. Examples include replacing park amenities, such as playgrounds and artificial turf fields, expanding a field house in a community with a growing population, or developing a new natural area. These projects are added to the capital plan if funding can be identified, including outside grants and donations as possible.
Are there limits to how many capital projects are approved?
The total estimated cost of the Capital Plan and its individual projects must fall within the anticipated funds available. This places limits on the number of projects that can be addressed in a given year. The Capital Plan recommendation to the General Superintendent must stay within adopted financial constraints.
What are the different programs and sub-programs for capital projects?
The main capital programs are acquisition and development, facility rehabilitation, site improvements, and vehicles and equipment. The associated sub-programs are provided here:
- Acquisition and Development - acquisition of property, new construction, park development, planning
- Facility Rehabilitation - major rehabilitation, minor rehabilitation, HVAC and energy efficiency, windows and doors, roof, concrete/masonry/structural, sculpture and monument, swimming pool, fitness center
- Site Improvements - athletic field, playground, spray pool, courts, fencing, paving, lighting, site improvement, landscape
- Technology, Vehicles and Equipment – technology, vehicles, equipment
How are capital projects funded?
The main source of Park District funding for capital projects is general obligation bonds. Historically, the District issues approximately $30-$40 million annually in bonds for capital improvements. Other District sources for capital projects include special recreation bonds and levy, harbor or other revenue bonds, and proceeds from the 2006 lease of downtown parking garages.
Outside funding is also essential to the success of the capital program. Nearly half of the capital plan is typically funded with outside partners, including Federal, State of Illinois, City of Chicago, and private grants and donations.
More detailed information on funding sources can be found in the annual CIP and Budget Summaries.
Can I suggest a capital project for a park?
Yes! Ideas for capital projects can be submitted anytime. An easy way to submit an idea is through the online form found here. You can also send ideas in through email, social media, or postal mail. Other ways to provide input are by testifying at the annual budget hearing, testifying at a monthly board meeting, and attending park advisory council and stakeholder community meetings.
What capital projects have been completed in my local park?
On this site is an interactive map showing all of the capital projects completed since 2011. A table of all capital projects can also be found here. To view summaries on some of the major park projects underway or recently completed in Chicago parks, go here.