McKinley Park mapMcKinley Park is a neighborhood and official community area located at the geographic center of Chicago, Illinois, about 4-1/2 miles southwest of Chicago's Loop. Its borders are Interstate 55 on the north, the South Branch of the Chicago River (aka "Bubbly Creek") on the east, Pershing Road on the south and the CSX railroad tracks and viaduct on the west.  Major thoroughfares include Ashland Avenue, 35th Street, Archer Avenue, Damen Avenue, Pershing Road and Western Avenue, as well as Interstate 55 and two Orange Line El stops at 35th/Archer and at Ashland. The neighborhood's namesake 69-acre park abuts Chicago's boulevard system at Western and comprises the largest green space in the area. 

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Neighborhood History

First settled around 1836 by Irish immigrants working on the Illinois & Michigan Canal, the neighborhood gained industrial businesses over the next couple decades, supported by the canal and nearby rail lines. The City of Chicago annexed the neighborhood in 1863, and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 pushed many burned-out companies to rebuild there, providing jobs for the working-class families populating the growing area. Originally the Brighton Park Race Track and then cabbage patches, the land comprising the initial park was dedicated in 1901 following the assassination of President William McKinley. It was to be a different, experimental type of park, as stated on the Chicago Park District's website:

At the time, Chicago's existing parks were far away from the filthy, noisy, overcrowded tenement neighborhoods in the center of the city. Superintendent J. Frank Foster envisioned a new type of park that would provide social services as well as breathing spaces in these areas. ... The effort was so successful that the following year the South Park Commission began creating a whole system of new neighborhood parks for the south side.

Over 10,000 attended the park's dedication on June 13, 1902, and it received such intensive use that in 1906, the parks commission acquired adjacent property, doubling McKinley Park's acreage. Its current facilities include a field house, swimming pool, gymnasiums, meeting rooms, ball fields, ice rink, tennis courts, biking and walking trails, and a lagoon. It is supported by Chicago Parks District staff and the McKinley Park Advisory Council.

In February 2021, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) released the McKinley Park Neighborhood Plan, a project won by the McKinley Park Development Council in 2017. McKinley Park's neighborhood plan was based on years of outreach and engagement, and resulted in recommendations to achieve six identified community goals: preserve neighborhood diversity, promote equitable transit-oriented development, revitalize commercial corridors, modernize the Central Manufacturing District, enhance and expand parks and recreational opportunities, and create a resilient community.

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The sign at 37th and Honore commemorating McKinley Park as the geographic center of ChicagoDemographics, Businesses and Institutions

Hispanic residents comprise the majority of the current population of the McKinley Park neighborhood, joined by about an evenly split number of white and Chinese. The neighborhood includes a mix of commercial and residential areas, with housing stock consisting mostly of single family homes and two-flats. McKinley Park's many restaurants and shopping options tend to be clustered along Archer Avenue, 35th Street and on Ashland, and include Mariano's and Jewel grocery stores, a Target department store, an Ace Hardware, a Walgreens drugstore, and many independent and franchise outlets serving both retail and business clientele. Numerous manufacturing, production and industrial companies maintain sites east of Ashland.

Neighborhood institutions include grammar and middle schools, a branch of the Chicago Public Library, the William McKinley American Legion Post 231, and several churches. Hoyne Park is very popular; other neighborhood public green spaces include Kucinski-Murphy Park and Mulberry Playlot Park. The longest-lived community group is the McKinley Park Civic Association; some newer groups serving the neighborhood include the McKinley Park Community Garden, the 12th Ward Independent Political Organization and the McKinley Park Development Council.

Politics and Press

The McKinley Park neighborhood lies predominantly in Chicago's 12th Ward and is represented in the Chicago City Council by Alderman George Cardenas. The southeast corner of the neighborhood, dominated by businesses and industry, lies in the 11th Ward and is represented by Alderwoman Nicole Lee. Chunks of the north end of the neighborhood lie in the 25th Ward and are represented by Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez. In the Illinois General Assembly, 1st District Senator Antonio Muñoz and 2nd District Representative Theresa Mah provide representation. U.S. Representative Marie Newman represents McKinley Park in Illinois' 3rd Congressional District; Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth represent McKinley Park in the U.S. Senate.

Publications that often cover the McKinley Park Neighborhood include the Brighton Park/McKinley Park Life and the Archer Journal News.

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