The lakeside park that started with a bang of controversy is wrapping up with the whimper of compromise as the Chicago Park District ties up the loose ends at Maggie Daley Park (337 East Randolph Street).
Named for the former Mayor’s late wife, the park’s pre-construction phase was dogged by controversy as various local interest groups sought to have the existing park changed, or sometimes not changed, to suit their needs. The Chicago Architecture Blog’s Zachary Pollack was at a meeting Monday night where the Grant Park Conservancy’s Bob O’Neil had updates on the remaining issues.
One of the most controversial items to arise from the transformation of Daley Bicentennial Plaza into Maggie Daley Park involves pets. Park neighbors were promised from the outset that they would still be allowed to bring their dogs to the new park. That changed suddenly when the park opened with the Chicago Park District shutting out dogs with no notice.
According to Mr. O’Neil, a compromise is in the works that would allow dog owners to navigate a short path alongside Cancer Survivor’s Plaza, through Maggie Daley Park and out to Lake Shore Drive to get to the rest of Grant Park where their canines are more welcome. The entire detour is about a quarter of a mile. While the proposed dog-safe corridor is something, it’s unlikely to appease people who for decades could walk their dogs simply by crossing the street in front of their building.
Another big bone of contention, especially with the residents of 400 East Randolph, was the elimination of the tennis courts when the new park was constructed. O’Neil says the tennis the courts are, indeed, coming back. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates is coming up with a landscape design that will sink the courts slightly below sight lines and use vegetation so the courts are not as visible as they were in the old park. Walsh Construction will turn the design into reality. Total price tag: $2.4 million.
One final piece of the park still needs to be built: The area that used to be the miniature golf course still has to be transformed into a restaurant. Four Corners Tavern Group was awarded the concession for the restaurant, which will blur the lines between park space and commercial space by incorporating live trees into the design. Think of sitting at a table and being able to reach out and touch a tree right next to you.
Restaurant designs are still fluid, but a formal proposal is expected to land in front of the Chicago Plan Commission in early September.