Parks home. "Other Parks and Open Lands". home. Give Elm to Kimbark Plaza? (in its own page).

Elm Playlot Park-"1 of 10 best small parks in Chicago: - media

This page brought to you by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Parks Committee and HPKCC's website, It is not an official website of the Elm park council. Join the Conference! Contact our Committee Chair Gary Ossewaarde.


A glowing accomplishment and a great fundraiser!

Next mtgs and events- Workdays Walking Club Gardening

President- Timika Hoffman-Zoller. Website

A nice commendation in Chicagolist. CONGRATULATIONS ON THE NEW FENCE!

Workdays and meetings

Elm Park PAC next meets 4th Tuesday 6 pm at Nichols fieldhouse, 1355 E. 53rd St.

Elm Park is featured on the show "Chicago at Play."


Elm Park
Elm Park is just one of the many green spaces that dapple the Hyde Park neighborhood, but it is probably one of the least well-known. This tiny park is located on Woodlawn between 53rd and 52nd, directly behind Kimbark Plaza. Not only are there plenty of great benches for reading, but this park also features some sweet and simple landscaping and a large open gazebo. It's a great place to take a break from all of your hurrying and just relax. — Sophie Day


Below are links to Elm PAC. Read there what Friends of the Parks said about Elm advocacy.

New items there: Elm council and garden committee get 2nd grant from Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee (2011) for $250, Program C report, meeting with Ald. Burns being set up. And lots more.
Certificate from the Garden Fair was presented at the April 28 2011 meeting.

The following overview was written by (and revised July 2011 based on more information) Gary Ossewaarde

Elm Playlot, Located at 5215 S. Woodlawn, north of Kimbark Plaza/53rd on Woodlawn, Elm Park was part of a trio developed during urban renewal in the late 1950s early '60s, but unlike Nichols and Spruce there was no public planning input. It is small, like (but not) an afterthought from the planned Kimbark Plaza, and has no logical exit from the rear except an all-too-jumpable short fence, which has a few parking spaces, delivery areas for the stores, and housing. Its design also was poor, including bench arrangement and hiding spots that encouraged drinking, gangs, dope dealing. The HPKCC Parks Committee at the time (1962-64) was heavily involved in and negotiating design of Nichols and Spruce parks, and found it nice or politic to let the Park District design Elm Park. Elm Council (and HPKCC archives in UC Library Special Collections) have pictures of a team of at least three, including Barbara Fiske who was heavily involved with HPKCC's Parks Committee, holding a plan-model of the design of the park, and the Elm Council has a large copy of the plan, given c late 2010 from the Park District. negate the widely-agreed perception that mistakes were made in the planning-- and that the problems were made worse by problems of the condition and store deliveries in the alley to the east and frankly by at least periodic neglect by neighbors, organizations, et al.

Past Elm President Piotr Gorniki on Elm's Facebook page contests the idea that Elm's design is poor, and that it is proper to consider a transfer to private businesses:

The notion that Elm Park was badly designed is a serious misconception. It has a very sophisticated design, exceptionally well executed. Elm Park was meant as a complement and balance to the space created for local vendors and businesses. Both, the Park and the Plaza, have had their share of problems, but as the history teaches us, in the long run the well implemented idea worked to a great benefit of all local residents. Today, the Park is in the middle of a densely populated successful residential neighborhood. We need open public space. We need shops and restaurants too. Allowing annexation of a City park to improve bottom line or, as the business leader claims, alleviate their business shortcomings and fears is bad public policy. This idea should not have even been entertained. There must be a better way.
Piotr Gornicki, Elm PAC President

And many like the "gazeboesque" feature in the back and like the bench arrangement for group reading (if benches not conducive to laying down are used). In response to complaints, in the late '90s Alderman Preckwinkle, the Plaza, park district, community organizations and others explored various options, including a swap to the plaza for parking in exchange for new parkland from the city elsewhere in the 4th ward while increasing landscaping in the shopping plaza's lot in front. Meanwhile, plans to remodel the park (plans of the park district and others developed by an architect for a small charrette) were aborted in the midst of these discussions. No resolution was reached and problems have continued. In mid 2004, it appeared CVS pharmacy, soon to be built at the east end of the plaza, would like to use or acquire part of Elm for parking but nothing happened.

Neighbors by mid 2010 formed a new advisory council and come up with imaginative reconfigurations and activities, held informational clinics on bikes and safety, planted a great deal (partly with grants from such as the Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee), and a neighborhood watch.
However word was given that loss of the park for a parking lot was again on the table, now apparently removed. Enthusiastic planning continued nonetheless, including with a nice video. On the dispute, see Elm Park Threatened page.

Contacts: Mike Weeda (v. president), Piotr Gorniki , Timika Hoffman-Zoller (president),, Ayana Nikki Peters, Nichols and neighboring parks Supervisor, 1355 E. 53rd St. 773 747-2307.

Next meeting for Elm Park Council- last Tuesday 6 pm. Usually fourth or last Tuesday. At Nichols Park fieldhouse, 1355 E. 53rd St. Timika Hoffman-Zoller, 4th Tuesday, 6 pm, but expected not meet in the summer (check back on this). Elm Park Advisory Council meets at Nichols Fieldhouse, 1355 E. 53rd St. May 28 2019- check.

Elm thanks SECC for a grant for its garden, installed in 2015.

Gardening -


July 19 2011 Elm representatives met with Alderman Burns and presented with powerpoint the history, amenities, workdays, community-building programs, needs and plan for the park and asked for his support in going forward in creating an even stronger and useful Elm Park. While nothing was decided on the future, in response to concerns that nothing would go forward until the future was decided, Burns said he would make sure with the PD that they were not holding anything up because of him. Meanwhile, Piotr was encouraged to place his presentation on the council's facebook page.

The Elm Park Executive Summary:

Sionce its inception in June 2010, Elm PAC consulted with many local residents and representatives of community organizations, local businesses, Chicago Park District, Friends of the Parks, University Police and Chicago Plice to addresss community concerns and needs, and establish common vision for elm Park.

Based on ths input, in partnership with the local branch of the Park Distict, the police and Hyde Park volunteers, Elm PAC initited a series of activities aiming at improving security and attractiveness of the Park.

Development of a comprehensive plan of imporvements and repairs was undertaken last Fall by the Chicago Park District.

The key objective of this meeting is to present community assessment of what needs to be doneat Elm Padrk in terms of capital improvements.

Elm Park Advisory Council will ask the Alderman for a long-term support for Elm Park, including financial support for teh proposed 3-year restoration project, and for suport for the Elm PAC in its community activities and fund raising efforts.

Letter of support from the Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee september 6 2011

Dear Alderman Burns,

The Hyde Park Garden Fair, a fifty one year old neighborhood institution dedicated to the beautification of public spaces and the encouragement of gardening within the neighborhood, supports the restoration plans for Elm Park.

We have been very impressed with the dedication of the Advisory Council to saving this green and quiet spot. The Garden Fair Committee has given grants for the purchase of perennial plants at our spring sales in 2010 and 2011 with a total value of $450.00. In addition we have contributed left-over bulbs from our fall sales. Our intention is to continue this support.

Joni Mitchell said it so well: "They paved over Paradise and put up a parking' lot with a pink hotel and a great new swinging hot spot ". Don't let that happen!

Respectfully yours,

Lesley Bloch|


Visit the Facebook page for pictures of the July 10 picnic.

Hyde Park Walking Club. Flyer. Has over 30! Sundays 10 am. A circuit via 51st, 57th Beach and back. Take walks from the park, 5211 S. Woodlawn, through the neighborhood. Free to the Public. All Are Encouraged to Join, Especially Seniors Citizens.
*******Chicago Park District’s Physical Fitness Specialist Mr. Solomon Smith III Will Kick off the 1st “Elm Park Walking Club” Meet-Up with
a Lesson on Stretches, Walking Strides, & Walking Fitness Tips*******
Once Month a Special Guest Presentation

For More Info Call the Elm Park Advisory Council
at 773 454-0499 or email Timika Hoffman-Zoller

Check Out Photos of Elm Park's New Lil' Floral Sprouts on the Elm Park Facebook Page

Next volunteer workday- tba, Woodlawn, N. of 53rd St.


See "Neighbors spruce up Elm Park."

Meanwhile, many bulbs and flowers were planted (donated in part by the Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee of HPKCC) and the park district finished many fix it and upgrade projects in the park. Members continue to monitor, plan for activities next spring, and engage in long term planning.


A fabulous fundraising party was put on by Elm Park at the Quadrangle Club's lounge October 15 2010 including jazz by Peter Lerner and Bob Hodge. A real cross section of supporters and the community was presence. The Club did a great job for us.

At the July 31 2010 picnic, several choices and assignments were made and former blueprints showed the evolution of the park's original design as well as a photo of 1963-64 HPKCC Parks Committee chair Barbara Fiske examining a 3-D model of the park's design.

The July 13 meeting covered a wide range of matters from a picnic-- held July 31st and bike safety clinic (being explored for August 21) to administrative and included

Safety Committee Report (this was detailed and included lots of ideas)
Elm Park Storytelling Program- various leads were explored to have one or more sessions this summer.
Bike Safety Clinic
Elm Park Repairs & Clean-Up (this was detailed and included lots of ideas, concerns, and suggestions on whom to contact and on requesting from Nichols Supervisor Heather Kelly. Some research needs doing on why various lights are going out, where the water connection is, et al. Bushes trimming has been scheduled by the Park District. )
Kimbark Parking Lot Issue
Prepare Elm PAC Budget Proposal. Major items include fence and gate, gazebo update, and benches
Park Walk-Through was carried out after the meeting
Plan First Elm PAC Picnic

See these sites also for discussion or mention of Elm Playlot:

Planning continued at the July 27 meeting and the July 31 fun picnic. The council now has large and reduced-size original plans for the parks that serve as templates. Topics in active planning include events, floral and shrub plantings or movements, a labyrinth, and much more.

Park gains needed friends, says Herald July 7, 2020. Based on article by Daschell M. Phillips

Elm Park Advisory Council is up and running. It is lead by founder and newly elected president Timika Hoffman-Zoller, who with her family has lived in the vicinity several years. She had noticed that people were not actively using the park, although derelicts had, though not as much now. it is small park overshadowed by Kimbark Plaza, Zoller noted, has no rear exit, no play equipment, and is near the shopping center deliveries-- so there are hiding spots that can encourage gang and drug activity.

Nevertheless, she said, the park can be taken care of and utilized by the community. She went to park supervisors and sought other advice on organization. She was surprised, however, to learn of plans to turn the park over to the shopping center for employee parking, with a distant park substituting for the lost open space. Such expansion plans for the center have been on the books for many years. Meanwhile the park was not being improved. It was speculated that the city/park district have have trouble finding both a square foot matching plot for a new park and funds.

Meanwhile, Ms. Hoffman-Zoller feels and was told that fixing up and cleaning up the park, even if only for interim, would not be a waste of time. She started with a neighborhood watch meeting with police, then held the inaugural meeting of the council. In planning are reading activities for children , bi-weekly positive presence activities, and cleanup-- the latter would include programs, a gate, trash cans, signs for curbing of dogs, grass trimming and broke glass removal.


Neighbors spruce up Elm Park

Hyde Park Herald, August 11, 2010. By Daschell M. Phillips

In one month's time Hyde Park residents have succeeded in organizing an Elm Park Advisory Council. Now the council is seeking funding from the park district to make renovations and institute programs.

As Timika Hoffman-Zoller approached the Chicago Park District board's annual budget hearing with a list of needs for Elm Park, 5215 S. Woodlawn Ave., she was greeted with a round of applause. In about one month, Hoffman-Zoller gathered community members adn formed a council to improve the state of a park in her neighborhood that was overrun with alcoholics and drug dealers.

The Elm PAC, which is lead by Hoffman-Zoller, president, Piotr Gornicki, vice president an Joanne Michalski, secretary and Danielle Rose, treasurer, currently has 13 members who regularly spend time in the park individually and gather together as a council in the park for picnics to encourage more positive community use of the park.

Hoffman-Zoller said the council's presence has caused the park district to increase its maintenance of the park. "Nearby neighbors said there's no longer garbage and broken glass all over the park and graffiti was removed from the Elm Park sign," Hoffman-Zoller said. She said neighbors noticed that before the council was formed the park's lights weren't turned on until 10 p.m. Now they are turned on at dusk.

At the Elm PAC's first picnic, University of Chicago graduate Sandra Ham, who [was then] the chairwoman of the park's gardening and landscaping committee, presented some historical facts about the park such as why the park has several circular designs, the fact that there used to be a fountain in the park that could be fixed and reused if the council decides that's best and that there was once a sandbox in the park, as well as why it was named Elm Park but never had elm trees.

"The city was using names of trees and plants as a generic way to name city parks then later on started naming them afte people," said Ham, who also discovered by looking through the Hyde Park Herald newspaper archives that Hyde Park had problems with drinking, drugs an loitering in Elm Park since the 1970s. Despite the park's long history of being a trouble spot for the neighborhood, Hoffman-Zoller is confident that with funding from the Chicago Park District the park can be revived and put to good use in the community.

"The main thing we want is a wrought-iron fence that is high and goes all the way around the park, new park bench arrangements, more lighting, a stage for storytelling and flowers, plants and shrubbery," Hoffman-Zoller said. She said thee park would also benefit from funding to support park programs such as storytelling programs for kids and poetry slams. "Partnerships with the Chicago Storytellers Guild and Little Black Pearl and Design Center are already being formed, but they must be paid," Hoffman-Zoller said.

The next Elm PAC picnic is fro m11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21. Hoffman-Zoller said it will be the park's 1st Annual Bike Safety Clinic. Guest speakers include representatives from Active Transportation Alliance, D.J.'s Bike Doctors and Blackstone Bicycle works. Very successful.

Recent gains, by Sept. 1 2010.
1. graffiti gone off of Elm Park Sign
2. new curb your dog signs.
3. dead tree gone.....
4. new water fountain....