Full House And Media Frenzy Show Up As Grant Park Public Meeting Goes To The Dogs

Bob O'Neill, President--Grant Park Conservancy

Bob O’Neill, President–Grant Park Conservancy

Maggie Daley Park Field House was packed with residents and the media last night for a public meeting hosted by the Grant Park Conservancy & Advisory Council.

The crowd sat politely for the first hour as Bob O’Neill, president of the conservancy, ticked off the park’s big accomplishments during 2014.

There was nary a peep when Bob Raymond, director of planning and construction for the Chicago Park District, described the restaurant—“Maggie’s”—planned for the southwest corner of the park.

But toward the end of the meeting, the assembled pack started to emit a low growl. The subject eliciting the howls and TV crews: dogs.

You see, there is a dog ban at Grant Park, and that extends to the newest gem, the $60 million Maggie Daley Park. The ban doesn’t sit well with some neighboring residents and they made their feelings known.

Media Frenzy

Media Frenzy

Others are fine with the current situation—one speaker offered dog bite statistics to bolster his case. Still another resident said a compromise of some kind is the answer.

It’s a controversial issue, O’Neill said, but the dog ban is in place for a good reason. Dog urine kills grass and destroys plants, he said, and some dog owners don’t clean up after their pets. Not all patrons with young children are comfortable with their kids around dogs.

“At the Cancer Survivor’s Garden on Randolph, for years what would happen is dogs would urinate there and it regularly killed the grass and the ground cover and the trees,” O’Neill said.

It’s an issue, O’Neill said, not just at Maggie Daley Park, but also at other areas of the central city wherever there’s density and people own a lot of dogs.

“At Mary Bartelme Park in the West Loop, it has become a real issue,” he said. “There’s a dog friendly area, but the other part of the park has turned into a dog run and families are fighting with dog owners. Dog urine can be very lethal and this has really created quite a problem.”

The dog ban at Maggie Daley Park drew most of the crowd and comments, but it was only a small part of the Grant Park public meeting agenda. Bob Raymond offered an update on Maggie’s restaurant, which he said would offer diners a clean, modern, well-lit glassy front along Monroe, just across from the Modern Wing of the Art Institute.

Bob Raymond, Director of Planning and Construction--CPD

Bob Raymond, Director of Planning and Construction–CPD

“We love those basic core concepts and we’ll be moving forward with design,” Raymond said.

The Site Design Group and Ernie Wong Design will handle the design, Raymond said. The schedule calls for a couple of months of design refinement, then permitting.

Construction could begin as early as June with an opening toward the end of 2015. O’Neill offered a recap of 2014 park activities, including:

  • The new skate park on south end, which opened in December.
  • Continuing work on the proposed Chopin Garden.
  • Another proposed garden, with vegetables and herbs.
  • The Solti Garden, developed in conjunction with the Chicago Symphony.
  • Museum Campus planning, including development of the Lucas Museum.
  • The Roosevelt Greenway project, with a dedicated east-west bike path, separated from traffic by rows of trees.

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at bill@ChicagoArchitecture.org.

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