Tiger Woods’ design firm on Wednesday released final designs for a multimillion-dollar plan to merge the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses into PGA-caliber links, a vision met with cautious optimism as city officials presented the idea to South Side residents.
The city, Chicago Park District, TGR Design and Chicago Golf Alliance showcased the proposed course layout at the South Shore Cultural Center, the first in a series of public hearings to gather community feedback on the “South Lakefront Framework Plan,” a revamp that includes the course and the Obama Presidential Library.
What remains to be seen is how much the golf course project will cost — and who will foot the bill.
The Chicago Golf Alliance has said merging the courses will cost about $30 million, with $24 million coming from private donors.
But infrastructure improvements around the courses — including two new underpasses, at 67th Street and South Shore Drive, and at 66th Street and Jeffery Boulevard — could at least double that price tag, critics say, and it’s unclear where that money would come from.
Taxpayers could also be on the hook for construction costs in shutting down Marquette Drive between Cornell and Lake Shore Drive.
Michael Claffey, public affairs director for the Chicago Department of Transportation, said after Wednesday’s meeting that engineers were still working out the costs. “It’s still very early in the process,” he said.
The park district already sank more than $1 million earlier this year just to commission the design.
Beau Welling — senior design consultant for TGR, the golf superstar’s design firm — called the proposal a parkland-style course “that sets out to preserve the historic nature of the two parks,” in a presentation in front of about 700 South Side residents.
The plan, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, creates a single 18-hole, par-70 course from the 18-hole Jackson Park and 9-hole, par-3 South Shore course. It preserves much of the landscape of the century-old courses, taking 13 holes from Jackson Park and five from South Shore.
Mature trees will be preserved throughout to frame many of the holes on the new 7,354-yard course; with a single cut of rough blending into native grasses to restore a prairie-like aesthetic.
The 11th hole will lead players to the shoreline near the current 6th green at South Shore golf course. Sight lines for the Par-3 12th green span from the Museum of Science and Industry to the Chicago skyline.
“The unique heritage of Jackson Park along with the historic nature of the two existing courses have inspired our design,” a conceptual routing from the firm states.
In a nod to community demands, the designs include a new 6-hole family short course along Jackson Park’s current 18th fairway, with lengths ranging 60 to 85 yards, offering beginners the opportunity to learn the game from tee to green, and more advanced players a quick loop to sharpen their wedge game.
Jackson Park’s Cecil Partee Clubhouse will be renovated and preserved as the center of family golf activities.
“Over the past several months, what we have heard from community input is the need for affordability, access and doing more for kids, and one of the repeated themes we heard from the community was the ability to have some indoor practice spaces to be able to enjoy the game of golf year-round,” said Brian Hogan, a founding director of the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance.
But Susannah Ribstein, a member of the South Shore Advisory Council, said she felt misled after a meeting with Hogan last week, when she asked him if the golf course layout would affect a nature preserve in the park. Ribstein said she was surprised to see the preserve replaced by a golf hole on the new layout.
“He said, ‘Absolutely not,” Ribstein said. “It’s disappointing.”
Hogan said it was another person on the advisory council with “less detailed knowledge of the project” who made that response to Ribstein. Some reshaping of the nature preserve could happen, though it’s still early in the design process, Hogan said.
“There is a very conscientious effort to maintain the ratio of golf and non-golf acreage in South Shore,” he said.
Other people at Wednesday’s meeting said they welcomed an overhaul of the parks, though a golf course wasn’t a priority.
“It’s a nice attraction to the area, but this is a working-class neighborhood,” South Shore resident Darius Fearrington said. “For people who live here, they’re not looking to golf. I don’t know anybody who golfs.”
Dennis Brooks, of West Woodlawn, said he was still wary of the “well-intentioned” project.
“I would hope that it doesn’t turn into a surreptitious gentrification project,” he said.
Officials will hold more meetings about the South Lakefront plan at 10 a.m. June 24 at Hyde Park High School, and 6 p.m. June 27 at a 5th Ward meeting sponsored by Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) at La Rabida Children’s Hospital. Questions and comments can also be left at www.southlakefrontplan.com.