It was almost two years ago when we first told you that Chicago’s own tea shop chain, Argo Tea, was going to set up shop in an unusual location — Connors Park. Tea in the triangle is finally becoming a reality.
Construction is underway, completely gutting and rebuilding the park. For years it was much less than it could be, or should be, for a park in the heart of the Gold Coast. It was mostly concrete, the shrubs were fenced off from the world, and the whole place reeked of urine from being overused as a toilet by the local dogs, the local vagrants, and the local carriage horses. The place was so bad that the usually diplomatic 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly whined quite publicly that the Chicago Park District refused to empty its own trash cans there.
Now Argo Tea is taking over the park, and paying to completely rehabilitate the place. In exchange for its time and money, Argo will be allowed to operate a tea shop on one end of the space.
Cracking open its checkbook doesn’t give the tea cosy carte blanche in the space across from the Hotel Sofitel (20 East Chestnut Street). When the park is done, it can’t have less greenspace than it did before Argo arrived. Argo is required to clean and maintain the park for the duration of its lease. Argo is required to provide security for the park. And Argo has to remember that this is a public park and all members of the public are welcome there; it must erect signs to let everyone know this is a public park with a teahouse inside of it, not a teahouse Bogarting a public park.
The old circular fountain that is a favorite of neighborhood hobos and homeowners alike will actually end up inside of Argo’s glassy pavilion. This is being allowed because Argo is required to allow anyone to sit inside as long as they like whether they buy something or not.
Argo’s agreement with the Park District runs for 15 years. If Argo goes out of business somewhere along the way, the Park District has the right to confiscate the pavilion and hire another company to run it.
A similar public/private partnership has been going on for years just up the street at Mariano Park. There, a coffee hut/gelatto stand is very popular with the locals. We did a story about the Mariano Park Pavilion (1031 North State Street) back in 2009 and found out that it was designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s employees.
Other things to know about the Connors Park Pavilion:
- Park size: 17,000 square feet
- Building size: 1,200 square feet.
- Height: 17 feet
- No trees will be cut down.
- The building will be made of steel with glass walls and doors, and a see-through roof.
- Public seating will be provided both inside and outside of the pavilion.
- The descendants of Senator William Connors, for whom the park is named, have seen the plans are are in favor of the park renovation.