Kathy Osterman (Effort to use Broadway Armory as a recreational center)


The Broadway Armory Story
By Kathy Osterman
(reprinted from the Spring 1985 issue of the Friends of the Park Newsletter)
A large brick building that stretches one block on North Broadway in the Edgewater Community will soon become the talk of the town! This seventy year old facility is owned by the State of Illinois and throughout the years served the Illinois National Guard.
Edgewater had been one of the only neighborhoods in Chicago that did not have any recreational programs. The Edgewater Community Council determined to change this.
With the assistance of Professor Homer Johnson of Loyola University, the council prepared a recreational needs assessment by interviewing children, senior citizens, parents, policemen, teachers, businessmen and the clergy. They were asked what kinds of recreational programs they would like to have, if a facility were available.
Concerned elected officials like Congressman Sidney Yates, Congressman Neil Hartigan, Senator Art Berman and Alderman Marion Volini assisted the Edgewater Community Council by identifying the Broadway Armory as the ideal facility to rehabilitate for a recreational complex.
The building was in terrible condition both inside and out. The State did not want to invest money to rehab the building for the Illinois National Guard since they were only using the facility for thirty-two hours a month.
Once the need for recreation was determined, and a possible site for recreation was located, this innovative project was launched. Without one cent to begin, but a lot of creative ingenuity, the Council put together a concept that has never been seen before in our country. How do you rehabilitate for recreation purposes, an underutilized state-owned military building located in Chicago’s most densely populated neighborhood. What a challenge the Edgewater Community Council faced! How exciting the task became as the Council ultimately brought together the State Capital Development Board, the Illinois National Guard, the Governor, the Mayor, the Chicago Park District, the Chicago Department of Planning, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Illinois Senate and Friends of the Park to find the solution.
The cooperation and team spirit by all levels of government and the people of Edgewater has resulted in the April 1st opening of a most amazing recreational facility.
The main floor alone includes three full gym floors. This space can accommodate tennis, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, running, boxing, wrestling, etc. The arts and crafts rooms, photography lab, ballroom, and meeting rooms were designed from the needs assessment report prepared the year before.
The Chicago Park District worked in partnership with the Edgewater Community Council. They arranged to lease from the State those areas of the facility designed for community use. The military utilizes all other areas.
Even though the project was quite complicated, each problem found a solution because everyone involved dared to be creative, chose to communicate and cared enough about the end result.
A new challenge now faces the Edgewater Community Council. While the rehabilitation is completed, existing programs need to be developed to assure Edgewater residents active participation. An advisory board of area residents, Park District and military people will oversee the Broadway Armory. A junior board of area grammar school students will have input to Park District staff on programming for their age group.
The Edgewater Community Council is so very grateful to Friends of the Parks for the technical assistance and moral support throughout the years. We invite Friends to come to Edgewater and see our new recreation center inside the military facility at 5817 N. Broadway!!
Editor’s note: The military has long since departed. Unfortunately, so has the Edgewater Community Council and Kathy Osterman, but the Broadway Armory building still stands, now owned and operated by the Chicago Park District as a full fledged recreational center.