Monday night saw the first of four meetings held by the Chicago Park District to solicit ideas for the renovation of North Grant Park, which includes the Daley Bicentennial Plaza site into which the Daley administration is hell-bent on cramming an illegal building for the Chicago Children's Museum.
The scope of the community input was immediately sharply curtailed by rules laid down by Chicago Park District director of planning and development Gia Biagi:
1. The entire park must be destroyed because the underlying parking garage is having leakage problems and the only way to fix it is to remove every vestige of the current park. This is another example of how private/public partnerships designed to benefit the city in fact cede control of the public sector to private interests. Chicago has already lost control of its streets through the parking meter deal. Now a public amenity - a 30 acre park - has to be destroyed to appease the needs of the private owners of the garage underneath.
2. It must be assumed that the Children's Museum will be built. This despite fundraising for the new building, which is now estimate to cost upwards of $150,000,000, has basically ground to a halt. The bad economy, not inaccurately, is cited by museum officials, but fundraising has undoubtedly also been depressed by the fact that it will have to take place in an environment where corporations will find their contributions won't automatically buy them friends among the general public, but may, indeed, tarnish their reputation among those who oppose the museum - which in all independent polls includes a large majority of Chicago residents. A large number of enraged activists which will make sure such contributions are widely publicized.
One good move is the Park District's hiring of renowned landscape architects Michael Valkenburgh Associates to design the replacement park. From their presentation, it is clear that they get it. They understand, as Grant Park Advisory President Bob O'Neill does not, that parks that are more than just cramming in as much programs and buildings as possible. Unfortunately the video I offer her - shot in my patented combination of horrific camerawork and hacksaw editing - covers only the beginning of Valkenburgh's excellent presentation. (I need to get a bigger storage card - or a Canon Ti,) You can see a portfolio of their work here.
Valkenburgh's presentations can also be heard as the three remaining Park District community input sessions, which was worth attending:
- Wednesday, May 26 at South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. Shore Drive
- Wednesday, June 9 at Broadway Armory, 5917 N. Broadway Avenue
- Thursday, June 10 at Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Avenue