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Year Established: 2003
Local Leader: Anita Cummings
Community Organization Partner: United Business Association of Midway (UBAM)
NeighborSpace Partnership: March 26, 2003
UBAM Park is a patch of tranquility in one of Chicago’s busiest neighborhoods – that directly surrounding Midway International Airport, offering residents an eclectic mix of sights, sounds and textures. It features a wide expanse of grass and benches facing the Midway runways – the perfect place for children and adults alike to marvel in the jets of all sizes taking off into the sky directly above them. The park’s smooth, curving walkway of brick pavers is a favorite with bicyclists, and its diverse foliage includes ornamental grasses, yews, golden junipers, and a grove of pear, crabapple, and maple trees.
The idea behind UBAM Park initiated with the United Business Association of Midway (UBAM), which is at the heart of the business/community development in neighborhood. One aspect of the area that the group had focused on since the late 1990s was increasing the community’s shared green space. Their first target was the space occupied by a long-abandoned gas station on a prominent corner of 62nd Street and Central Avenue – directly across from the airport and visible to the thousands of visitors and area residents who pass through the area each day. This effort proved to be one that required limitless patience and perseverance.
“Our group worked incessantly to try to secure the purchase, donation, trade, etc. of this eyesore,” says Anita Cummings of UBAM. “Reluctant sellers, environmental roadblocks – each slowed the process to a snail’s pace. Thanks to the intervention of NeighborSpace, the wheels were set in motion. The partnership agreement was finally signed on September 1, 2004, and construction quickly followed.” The community’s hard work proved to be worth the effort. In May 2005 UBAM Park opened with a dedication to the memory of Donald J. Feeley, a local leader who believed in the kind of partnership that enabled the establishment of the park.
In Anita’s Words: “This project will hopefully spearhead numerous additional projects, partnerships and development initiatives that will surely enhance the quality of life of this Southwest side community.” In other words, UBAM Park is the first step in what promises to be a continuous and productive effort to enhance the Midway neighborhood.
Best Practice Idea: Anita believes that strong community leadership and key partnerships are vital not only to the development of green space such as urban gardens, but all projects that enhance the vitality of a neighborhood and the quality of community life on multiple levels. She also credits NeighborSpace with providing invaluable support throughout the garden development process.