North Grant Park construction prep begins

Daley Bicentennial field house closed Saturday, fencing likely to be up by Oct. 1

09/19/2012 10:00 PM

By Ben Meyerson

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The Chicago Park District shut down North Grant Park field house last weekend, kicking off a three-year process that will tear up what’s now Daley Bicentennial Plaza and replace it with Maggie Daley Park.

Daley Bicentennial’s field house closed Sept. 15 to prepare for construction. Fencing should go up around the park by Oct. 1.

North Grant Park, roughly defined as between Randolph and Monroe streets from Columbus Drive to Lake Shore Drive, is being torn up in order to repair the leaky roof of the parking garage directly beneath it.

Once roof repairs are finished, a new park named after the late Maggie Daley will be built on top of it. The park will feature a climbing wall and an ice skating loop, as well as hills, meadows and winding paths.

The $55 million park is being paid for in part by $35 million set aside when the city’s downtown parking garages were privatized. The rest is expected to come from corporate donations, about $9 million of which had been raised as of late August, according to Grant Park Conservancy chief Bob O’Neill.

Once construction fencing is up, benches, playground equipment, tennis courts and other above-ground infrastructure will be removed first, O’Neill said. Soil will then be picked up and moved to Peanut Park, just east of Daley Bicentennial, and will be moved back when repairs to the garage roof are finished.

As for what’s there right now, O’Neill said the Cancer Survivors Garden (between Daley Bicentennial Plaza and Peanut Park) will remain open during construction, and perennial plants and bushes that are salvageable will be relocated. Crews will use the field house as construction office, eliminating some need to keep trailers on site.

There are a few tenants living in Daley Bicentennial right now, like squirrels, rabbits and birds. Since mating season is mostly done, the birds should just fly away when construction equipment rolls in, O’Nell said.

As to how to relocate the rabbits and squirrels, they’re looking into the logistics of it right now and consulting with experts from the humane society and the University of Illinois at Chicago, he said. They have relocated rabbits in the past when they briefly overpopulated the park, he said, so they have some experience.

“We are looking into the relocation of certain wildlife,” O’Neill said. “The famous Grant Park rabbits will be treated with respect.”

While the park is closed, children’s programs will shift from the field house to Northerly Island, and adult field house programming will move to Lake Shore Park on Chicago Avenue.

Construction on Maggie Daley Park is expected to finish by the end of 2014 or early 2015.

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