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Residents will vote on Edgewater ‘Beachwalk’ project this November

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Even if locals support the non-binding referendum, funding remains a critical obstacle

An ambitious project to extend Chicago’s lakefront three-quarters of a mile between Ardmore and Devon with new beaches, green space, pedestrian paths, and dedicated bike trails is set to appear on the ballot as a yes/no public policy referendum for Edgewater residents this November. Known as the Edgewater Beachwalk, the proposal comes from the nonprofit Edgewater Beach Group and was recently fleshed-out in renderings by Chicago architects Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill. While this fall’s vote will be non-binding, the results should give policymakers a good idea of how local residents feel about the project.

While the addition of new public recreational space may seem like a win-win to some residents, president of the Edgewater Beach Group Morry C. Matson warned of opponents — presumably located in the waterfront condominium buildings along Sheridan — organizing to scuttle the Beachwalk. "Restrictionist voters here fear that Southside residents will bring their crime, drugs and prostitution to the shoreline," wrote Matson in a rather provocative statement reported by Edgeville Buzz.

Assuming the project rallies the necessary public support and the political will to move forward, funding still remains its biggest hurdle. For example, while Alderman Harry Osterman expressed his general support for the Beachwalk, he does not feel that new parks space is a top financial priority amidst Chicago’s severe budgetary struggles.

Though Edgewater Beach Group reached out to filmmaker George Lucas and wife Mellody Hobson for possible naming rights following the couple’s decision to bail on Chicago for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, the most likely source of funding would come from federal grants. If the case can me made for erosion remediation, perhaps a deal similar to the 5.8-acre, $31.5 million Fullerton revetment can be worked out with the Army Corps of Engineers.