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Plan to Replace Green Space with Asphalt at 31st Street Backed by Parks Group

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The expanded lot would add 250 new parking space to the lakefront at 31st Street

Despite higher than expected vacancy at Chicago’s south side 31st Street Harbor compared to the more popular downtown and north side marinas, a plan to replace nearby green space with more parking is moving forward with an unlikely ally. Friends of the Parks, Chicago’s most politically active open space advocates, backs the plan which would see the harbor’s existing 650-spot garage supplemented with 250 new parking stalls just west of Lake Shore Drive.

While proponents of the now-dead Chicago Lucas Museum of Narrative Art — including Mayor Rahm Emanuel — perhaps unfairly relabeled the group as "Friends of the Parking Lots," FotP’s endorsement of swapping greenery for asphalt certainly isn’t doing the non-profit organization’s image any favors.

Friends of the Parks executive director Juaniza Irizarry defends her group’s support, claiming that the expanded surface lot provides improved access for south side residents who would otherwise struggle to reach Chicago’s lakefront, reports John Greenfield of Chicago Reader. According to Irizarry, FotP "is not going to tell people of color that they can only utilize the beach if they arrive by CTA or bicycle."

Greenfield, however, refutes this claim in his piece by pointing to lower than average car ownership in the surrounding communities and arguing that the new lot’s $1.65 million price tag would better be spent on expanding public transit to the south side beach and harbor.

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