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A Portrait of Mayor Daley's "Nowhere"

     

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[September 24, 2007] A photoessay on the park Richard M. Daley wants to destroy

 -by Lynn Becker

 


 

Here is a photograph of "nowhere":
Daley Bicentennial Plaza Park at the Frank Gehry BP Bridge'
That's what Mayor Richard M. Daley derisively calls Grant Park at Daley Bicentennial Plaza, at the east end of the Frank Gehry designed BP Bridge, in still another ploy in his increasingly desperate campaign to muscle a 100,000-square-foot building for the Chicago Children's Museum into that same park.

The Mayor would have you believe that because it's not crammed to gills with people like the Millennium Park attractions at the other end of the bridge, it must be "saved" by the addition of the Children's Museum, which is projected to soon be adding 800,000 people to the park each year. Although much of the museum would be underground, it would construct a huge central courtyard and a series of skylights soaring above the park floor.

This is what the battle against the museum is really about. Because Millennium Park is a smash hit, Daley apparently believes any part of Grant Park that's not already a hyperactive pinball machine must be refashioned in that mold. He also wants to make sure he can steamroll future constructions into the park without restriction, which could become especially significant should Chicago land the 2016 Olympics.

Opponents to the museum believe, as did Daniel Burnham, that it is essential to have places of beauty and nature that are not extensions, but antidotes to the congested density and frenzied activity of a great city.

As you will see from these photos, that's the indispensible role that the park at Daley Bicentennial Plaza plays. It is a place of scenic beauty and wide, untrammeled lawns. It is the place where neighborhood families take their kids to play, and people come to read in the sun or sit in quiet contemplation. It's a calm counterpoint to Millennium Park's fizzy, aggressive urban pop on the other side of Columbus Drive. It should be improved - an upgrade to the ugly chain link fencing and drooping cloth coverings of the tennis courts, a new field house, a crossing to the lake, a promenade down to Buckingham Fountain. But it should not be left to be violated by an intrusive presence that will destroy its quiet serenity.

By the way, I've already been accused of demagoguing in a post from sideofwisdom on the comments section coming off this article, who calls the park an "an akward narrow strip." I respond in more detail in my own posting, but note that I talk of the park as a whole, including the tennis courts, and I've included a Google Map below that shows that the Daley Bicentennial Plaza Park, far from being a narrow strip, is about the same width as Millennium Park on the other side of the bridge.

Millennium Park and Daley Bicentennial Plaza Park compared in size

Playlot at Daley Bicentennial Plaza

Daley Bicentennial Plaza Park and Michigan Avenue skyline

Daley Bicentenial Plaza Part

Segway tour, Daley Bicentennial Plaza Park

Sitter at Daley Bicentennial Plaza, Grant Park

Daley Bicentennial Plaza, Grant Park

Playlot at Daley Bicentenial Plaza, Grant Park

View to lake, Daley Bicentennial Plaza, Grant Park

Playlot family, Daley Bicentennial Plaza, Grant Park

Reader, Daley Bicentennial Plaza, Grant Park

Family, Daley Bicentennial Plaza, Grant Park

Daley Bicentennial Plaza, Grant Park, view to Buckingham Fountain

 

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lynnbecker@lynnbecker.com

© Copyright 2007 Lynn Becker All rights reserved.

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