By Tim Moran
Three of Ridge Park’s most popular amenities — the Vanderpoel Art Association Gallery, auditorium and gymnasium — will soon become much more easily accessible to all park patrons. Construction on an elevator at the Ridge Park fieldhouse has been completed, with the finishing touches in the works before it can be opened to the public.
“It’s such an old building, over 100 years old, and there’s never been an elevator,” said Gary Jenkins, president of the Ridge Park Advisory Council (RPAC) that, working with park and Chicago Park District officials, initiated the project a few years ago.
The RPAC began talks of installing an elevator at Ridge Park around 2018, Jenkins said, but weren’t able to get more than two construction companies to bid on the project — a requirement in the city of Chicago — until 2022.
BAPA Executive Director Mary Jo Viero, past president of the Ridge Park Advisory Council, was a “driving force” in the project from beginning to end, Jenkins added.
“We wanted to impress upon the Park District how important it was to give people access to the gymnasium, auditorium and art gallery,” Jenkins said. “When it was finally announced that the project was approved, it was a good day.”
Chicago-based Solis Construction was awarded the bid to perform the work, with funding coming from TIF funds and grants, among other sources.
The project’s completion is waiting only on ComEd to complete the electrical work, Jenkins said. Once that is finalized, a ribbon cutting will be scheduled to unveil the elevator to the Beverly/Morgan Park community.
Once it’s in place, Jenkins envisions the elevator providing “a huge impact” for visitors.
“Quite a few seniors come to Ridge Park, and many of the classes are held on the second floor,” he said. “This will make it quite a bit easier for the older folks to get up there because those steps aren’t easy.”
The elevator will have three stops, one at the lower level, another at the Vanderpoel Art Gallery and another near the auditorium.