Chicago Park District reveals final plans for North Grant Park redo
Skate park, ice skating ribbon, climbing wall highlight features at new park
01/27/2012 5:49 PM
Updated: February 1, 2012
The far north end of Grant Park is set to be completely torn up next fall, and this week the Chicago Park District unveiled the final plans for the massive rebuild.
The new park will replace the rigidly structured, concrete-heavy Richard J. Daley Bicentennial Plaza with a more pastoral park featuring winding paths connecting wide lawns and hills with active areas.
Among the new park’s features will be a skate park and scooter plaza, an undulating ribbon-like ice skating loop with a climbing wall at its center, and a large “play garden” for children.
The current park sits between Columbus and Lake Shore drives, and Randolph and Monroe streets, and it’s essentially a huge green roof for the parking garage below it. That roof is also very leaky, and needs to be completely torn up this fall because the garage beneath it is being renovated.
However, as part of the deal that sold the city’s parking meters and lots to private vendors, $35 million was set aside for rebuilding the park after the garage was renovated, roughly $31 million of which should be available for construction after design fees are taken out.
The park district is planning to break ground this fall, and the park district’s director of planning and policy, Gia Biagi, said in a meeting in October the park will likely be out of commission for summer 2013 and 2014. The goal, they said, is to open the new park in summer 2015.
Tearing up the whole park will require lots of big trees to be torn down, but the park’s designers, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, have come up with a unique solution to reuse them. Though the trees will likely have died long before it’s time to put them back in the ground, they’re planning to treat the stumps and trunks and integrate them into the new play garden.
One of the major issues that’s come up in each community meeting discussing the plans has been tennis courts. Daley Bicentennial Plaza currently has 12 of them; plans for the new park initially didn’t call for any. However, after significant complaints from neighbors, Van Valkenburgh threw six of them onto neighboring Peanut Park, just east of Daley Bi.
The final price tag for the park hasn’t been worked out yet, and while the park district has asked Van Valkenburgh to create a park that can be built for $31 million or so, they’re going to pursue corporate sponsorships to fund pieces of the park. Bob O’Neill, head of the Grant Park Conservancy, said he thinks it shouldn’t be too hard with several massive office buildings overlooking the park.
“I would think that companies like Aon and Blue Cross Blue Shield, which look right over it, would want to pitch in,” O’Neill said. “No one wants to throw in the first million, but beyond that it’s easier. I don’t see how they’re going to say no, and that way we’ll get an even better park.”
The fact that this is getting built in a recession should make this a different park from its neighbor directly to the west across Columbus Drive, O’Neill said, but that’s not a bad thing. The final park will flow much more nicely from Millennium Park, he said, and be one of the city’s new gems.
“This is a park for a different time,” O’Neill said. “Millennium Park was built with a lot more money, but this is going to be a great park, and people are going to experience things they’ve never experienced in Chicago. It’s completely different from what’s out there right now.”
The final renderings will be on display in the pedway at Block 37, 108 N. State St., for the next two weeks.
Grant Park renderings