The design team for DuSable Park will be chosen this year, but concerns about more delays persist

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said a long-delayed DuSable Park design team will be selected this year.

Located at the foot of the Chicago River near Navy Pier, the 3.3-acre parcel of land was dedicated 34 years ago by the late Mayor Harold Washington, who proclaimed it the future site of DuSable Park in the honor of the first settler and founder of the city, Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable. The grand opening came long before the city split over the new ordinance that renamed Lake Shore Drive after DuSable last month.

Lightfoot used the undeveloped DuSable Park and the Riverwalk as an alternative to renaming the iconic road. But longtime supporters say the city made a commitment to develop the park three decades ago, regardless of the new ordinance and the current political climate. They say the city was in no rush to keep the promise Mayor Washington made in 1987.

With the new ordinance in place and the return to normalcy of City Hall after racial tensions, there is concern that any development plans for DuSable Park will continue to drag on without a timeline or accountability.

“We have encountered many broken promises related to this project and continue to have doubts about the completion of DuSable. There was never a proposed timeline for completion of the park, ”said Peggy Montes, President of Friends of DuSable Park and member of the DuSable Advisory Board.

Montes, who worked in the Harold Washington administration, is also president emeritus of the DuSable Museum of African American History. His non-profit organization, Friends of DuSable, established in 1998, is the oldest organization honoring DuSable’s legacy and advocates for the development of DuSable Park.

In response to an email requesting a timeline on its development plans for DuSable Park, city spokesman Victor Owoeye said the Chicago Park District is currently preparing to issue the tender for the DuSable Park. design and engineering services for DuSable Park. Owoeye said the Park District expects a design team to be selected this year.

The mayor has pledged to invest $ 40 million in the development of the park, including $ 15 million already committed for the development of the land. The investment includes $ 5 million in open space impact fees and $ 10 million from Related Midwest.

Montes and his organization are concerned that private funds from Related Midwest have the potential to further delay development of DuSable Park with its billion dollar plan to erect twin skyscrapers at 450 N. Lake Shore Drive that will measure larger. 875 feet and 765 feet high.

With approvals still needed for the Related Midwest project, Montes is concerned that DuSable Park may be dragged into the lengthy approval process. Montes cited the Chicago Spire development to be built near where the proposed Twin Towers are being considered. The development of the Chicago Spire was scrapped after the developers filed for bankruptcy in 2008. The future of DuSable Park was tied to the construction of the Chicago Spire.

DEVELOPER MIDWEST, which has committed $ 5 million for the development of DuSable Park, will build twin skyscrapers across from the site. (Rendering)

“So here we are again. Is it a park the city pays for, as the mayor says, or is it just a developer who pays for the park if he builds his building? Montes questioned.

For more than three decades, the city dragged its feet on development plans for the site after it was cleared of contaminated soil.

In 2000, the Chicago Park District sparked a public outcry after announcing plans to build a parking lot on the site. The plan was postponed sine die.

In 2001, Laurie Palmer, a former professor at the Art Institute, made 66 proposals for a project called “3 acres on the lake”.

In 2006, several Chicago groups, including the DuSable Park Coalition and Friends of DuSable, came up with an $ 11.4 million plan that would have included a story wall with a sign, a lakeside boardwalk, and a hall. outdoor classroom.

In 2016, Friends of the Park proposed to settle a lawsuit preventing the Lucas Museum from building on the site.

Since Mayor Washington announced plans for DuSable Park over 30 years ago, the Park District has built Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park, and completed a $ 2.8 million restoration of the Buckingham Fountain.

Last May, Lightfoot opened the $ 64 million Navy Pier Flyover, a half-mile steel and concrete pedestrian bridge that overlooks undeveloped DuSable Park. Lightfoot was present at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Navy Pier project. There was no mention of the future of DuSable Park at the ceremony.

“We are pleased to see Mayor Lightfoot’s response to keeping his pledge to complete DuSable Park, which was opened over 34 years ago by Mayor Harold Washington,” said Montes.

“The mayor’s proposal only reflects other sources of funding for the park. DuSable Park was not independently funded by the city or the Park District. This park was linked to the development of 450 N. Lake Shore Drive.

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