The Chicago Park District owns and manages 8,100 acres of park land, 580 parks, 237 field houses, 520 playgrounds, and 24 miles of lakefront. This Plan is intended to prioritize new and rehabilitation projects throughout our parks over the next five years. Through this long-term plan, the Park District will continue to provide excellent recreation opportunities, beautifully maintained facilities, and a customer focused and responsive park system for the enjoyment of all Chicagoans.
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, service, planning, construction, and maintenance departments.
The requests are bundled into programs and sub-programs that reflect a shared project type. Projects that are primarily paving work, for example, are organized first into a program called "site improvements" and second into a sub-program called "paving". Establishing programs and sub-programs help us to compare similar projects.
Once the requests are organized, an internal working group convenes to investigate, analyze, and weigh each request. This group includes representatives from the departments responsible for implementing the capital plan: planning and development, capital construction, facility maintenance, natural resources, green initiatives, budget, and the office of the chief operating officer. From request compilation to final capital plan, the work of this group spans approximately six months.
The working group's first step is investigation. The working group departments physically investigate the requests 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. With hundreds of requests made in a given year, this process can require several months of work.
After investigation, research, and analysis, the working group assigns a relative weight to projects. Projects are weighed against others in the same sub-program with consideration of the following typologies: projects that are urgent, high-priority that should be undertaken if possible; high-priority projects that should be done if funding becomes available; worthwhile projects to be considered if funding becomes available; and desirable, but not essential, low-priority projects. To understand the continuum of need, an "urgent, high-priority" request might be repairing a broken water main; a "desirable, but not essential" request might be a new floral garden. 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.
The total estimated cost of the Capital Plan and its individual projects must be within the anticipated available funds. This places limits on the number of projects that can be addressed in a given year. 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 timeliness for projects, and make clear to the public the District's future investment intentions. The working group's recommendation to the General Superintendent must stay within the financial constraints.
The 2019-2023 Capital Plan presents projects planned for the next five years. This document illustrates the expected sources and uses of capital plan funds and their programmatic distribution, as well as project descriptions, expected timelines, and examples of recent projects.