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09.25.2013
Beach Bash
New park space planned on Chicago's Lake Michigan shoreline.
Courtesy CDOT

Plans to rejuvenate Chicago’s Lake Michigan shoreline got a bit more detail in August, revealing nearly six acres of new parkland along the north side, and more robust protection against erosion and flooding.

The plan is part of a larger project begun in the 1990s to restore 9.2 miles of city shoreline. That is about 75 percent done, after work wrapped up on a section of revetment, or retaining wall, between 43rd and 45th streets earlier this year. North of Fullerton, the Army Corps of Engineers is leading work on the section between Montrose Avenue and Irving Park Road, the contract of which is currently out for bid.

The Fullerton Beach Redevelopment Plan calls for 1,700 feet of new revetment to prevent erosion in the area just north of Lincoln Park’s Theatre On The Lake. Wind and waves have licked the stepped cement revetments there, creating a pinch point for the heavy bicycle and pedestrian traffic that frequents the lakefront trail.

 

The new wheelchair-accessible revetment will narrow from 60 feet to 28 feet wide as it wends to the south, following the same step pattern as the revetment to the north.

Restoring the shoreline means repairing a beach cell at the revetment’s southern end, which will add 5.8 acres of parkland. Lincoln Park’s mid-1990s framework plan called for such a landmass, which will help reduce water damage to Lake Shore Drive.

Efforts to restore Chicago’s shoreline complement a renewed interest in the pending rehab of Lake Shore Drive’s northern branch. Unlike the southern segment of Lake Shore Drive, which was rebuilt about 10 years ago, this seven-mile stretch of highway is between of 60 and 80 years old.

 

A group of 15 local organizations including the Active Transportation Alliance, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the Center for Neighborhood Technology, and the Chicago Architecture Foundation commissioned the “Our Lakefront” plan, meant to provoke conversation about the state of Lake Shore Drive’s north branch as it approaches a much-needed update. The group, represented by Active Transportation Alliance’s Lee Crandell, hopes to reposition the Drive as a boulevard, as it was originally designed.

“It’s slowly turned into a freeway,” Crandell told the Sun-Times. “We want it to feel like a boulevard.”

That could include bus rapid transit or light rail, he told AN. It would also improve bike circulation, perhaps widening or duplicating the heavily trafficked bike and pedestrian paths that run along the lakefront. They also proposed more park spaces and greenery, and a reduced speed limit. A series of public meetings aired some grievances of bikers toward motorists and vice versa, highlighting the congestion that occurs in the north lakeshore’s underpasses, which link neighborhoods to lake front trails.

Chris Bentley