There were no TV crews at the Grant Park Advisory Council & Conservancy meeting on Thursday night. Not like a month ago when the agenda included the park’s dog ban—a move that generated considerable resident and media heat. No, the fourth estate has moved on, attracted to the next shiny object. In fact, the audience of locals was quite a bit smaller this time as well. The only thing I witnessed that might pass for canine activism was a gentleman wearing a “Howl For Change” lapel button.
The first order of business was election of officers. If the citizenry of Chicago could only muster 34% of the electorate on Tuesday to elect a mayor and aldermen, well, you have to figure the Grant Park Conservancy might not set any voting records.
There was little drama in the election. Incumbent president Bob O’Neill remains in his post, as well as incumbents Angela Tosic (secretary) and Jon Young (treasurer). Also elected: Paul Kulon (vice president) and Anthony Pesce (director).
After the election, the meeting went to the dogs. O’Neill reported that a slew of comment cards following last month’s meeting took umbrage at the dog park ban. O’Neill went to the Chicago Park District and asked if some leniency could be considered.
O’Neill said the district was receptive to a compromise and it was likely that dogs would be permitted in a section of Maggie Daley Park along Cancer Survivors Garden and the yet-to-be-completed Peanut Park. This would allow dog-owners access from Michigan Avenue to the lakefront. This access could be allowed as soon as spring, but probably more likely sometime in mid-summer, after sod takes hold.
The main agenda item was also a follow-up from the January Conservancy meeting—a progress report on the new restaurant to be constructed at the southern tip of Maggie Daley Park along Monroe Avenue. Chicago Park District Director of Development and Planning Rob Raymond provided the update. The RFP process generated a proposal the district liked, from Four Corners Tavern Group.
The proposed “Maggie’s At The Park” will be a 10,000-square foot restaurant with a glass exterior and plenty of green space. In fact, the roof will actually be green space—an extension of the park where visitors can toss out a blanket, sit and even order carryout from the restaurant below for an impromptu picnic.
“The design (from Space Architects) will include skylights for a tree canopy,” Raymond said. “The restaurant design has a split down the middle.”
The split can be seen in the rendering Raymond provided. It carves the front of the restaurant (facing Monroe) in half to allow park visitors to walk down a path toward the entrance. Below ground, the innards of the restaurant will be U-shaped, but from above, it all looks like a continuous piece of parkland.
That’s a far cry from what the site looked like before development began, O’Neill said.
“It’s an abandoned entrance to the park garage. So, we’re basically taking an asphalt bus turnaround and making it something beautiful.”
Comments about the restaurant were generally positive, although some residents wondered about the length of the commitment with Four Corners Tavern Group. The answer: a five-year term, with an option for renewal or buy-out clause in the event relationships sour.
Groundbreaking for Maggie’s On The Park is expected by June, barring any delays, with a restaurant opening about one year from now.