Posts tagged with "chicago park district":

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Chicago park will finally be cleansed of radioactive waste

Chicago has a bit of a thorium problem. The radioactive element, once heavily used in the making of gas light mantels, can now be found in contaminated superfund sites across the city. One of those sites also happens to be the long-delayed and much-anticipated DuSable Park in the downtown Streeterville neighborhood. While the park is on the Chicago Park District’s website, it has not been programmed or developed in any way. Now, 30 years after its founding, the park is set to finally be cleared of its radioactive waste, enabling its development into a usable public space. Located at the mouth of the Chicago River, immediately east of Lake Shore Drive, DuSable Park is named after the first non-native settler of Chicago, Jean Baptiste Point DuSable. An African-French-Haitian, DuSable was born on the island of Haiti around 1745 to a French mariner and a slave. After marrying and starting a family with a Potawatomi woman, DuSable settled at the mouth of the Chicago river. There he maintained a successful trading post and farm. Today his name adorns many civic institutions, including the DuSable Museum of African American History. Unlike that celebrated museum, DuSable Park has had a hard go since its founding in 1987 by then-mayor Harold Washington. Over the past 30 years, dozens of proposals have been made for the 3.24-acre site. At one point, it seemed that the park would be designed by Santiago Calatrava as part of the failed Chicago Spire development, which was to be directly west of the park. In 2001, Chicago artist Laurie Palmer established an open call for proposals for the site. That call resulted in an exhibition and book outlining 65 other ideas for the site. Yet it is still unclear what the future holds for the little park on the lake. First and foremost, the thorium contamination—first identified on the site in the 1990s—must be cleaned up. As part of a cooperative agreement signed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in June 2017, the agency will be providing $6.8 million to the Chicago Park District to facilitate that cleanup. While this is not the first attempt to clean up the park, it is hoped that attempt will completely remediate the site. Thorium, a naturally occurring radioactive element, is notoriously hard to clean up, in part because of how it gets into the soil in the first place. As with many other sites around Streeterville, DuSable Park's thorium is likely from the Lindsay Light Company, which processed the material from raw ore and manufactured gas light mantles in the area from 1904 through 1936. Some of the waste from the refining process is a sand-like material called thorium mill tailings, which was often used as infill in the low-lying Streeterville. It is likely thorium mill tailings were used as part of the fill on the DuSable site, which is reclaimed land from the lake. A second costly factor in removing thorium is that is can only be trucked to a few disposal sites in the United States. The only one that is likely to take the waste from DuSable is in Utah. The money earmarked by the EPA for the cleanup comes from $5.1 billion settlement with the company that acquired Lindsay Light, the country’s largest environmental contamination settlement to date. Despite moving out of Streeterville in the 1930s, the company continued to give away the radioactive fill to home builders in the west suburbs. While thorium is far from the only environmentally disastrous legacy left by Chicago’s industrial past, it is one that is particularly troubling to builders. In most cases, the contamination is not a direct hazard to the public until the soil and concrete covering it are disturbed. On sites known to formerly be industrial, developers often have to conduct extensive testing before breaking ground. As is the case with DuSable Park, this can add time and money to already long projects. With the EPA’s help, there is now hope that Chicago will have a new growing, rather than glowing, lakefront park.
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Yoko Ono breaks ground on public art project for Chicago’s South Side

The Chicago Park District starts work today on a new project by Yoko Ono. Her first permanent public art installation in the Americas will be a meditation on world peace, harmony with nature, and Japanese-American relations dubbed SKY LANDING, which is slated for a parcel of Jackson Park once home to the historic Phoenix Pavilion. Instead of a groundbreaking, construction began Friday with a “ground healing” ceremony on Wooded Island. Ono's installation, set to open in June 2016, will include a sculpture and landscape design meant to evoke a sense of harmony with nature. The details of the project are still largely undefined. “I recall being immediately connected to the powerful site and feeling the tension between the sky and the ground,” Ono said in a press statement. “I wanted the Sky to land here, to cool it, and make it well again.” Following the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the Japan Construction Company shipped several prefabricated, traditional Japanese structures to Chicago's South Side, establishing the Ho-o-den (Phoenix Pavilion). It remained on Wooded Island until fire destroyed the Phoenix Pavilion in 1946. Now home to Osaka Garden, the site is part of a public-private overhaul of Jackson and Washington Parks under the nonprofit banner Project 120 Chicago. Led by the Chicago Park District and businesspeople including Robert Karr, Jr., a lawyer and the executive vice president of the Japan America Society of Chicago, Project 120 Chicago was convened to “revitalize” Frederick Law Olmsted's South Side parks, which have suffered from years of deferred maintenance. In 2012 the group's efforts began with an initiative to plant hundreds of cherry blossom trees. They then hired architect Kulapat Yantrasast and his firm wHY to look into building a new Phoenix Pavilion. Preservation landscape architect and planner Patricia O’Donnell and her firm Heritage Landscapes were hired to lead larger preservation efforts in the parks.
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Chicago Plan Commission Approves New Skate Park for Grant Park

This month, Chicago’s Plan Commission approved plans for a new skatepark at the south end of Grant Park. Plans were released last fall, showing curvy paved pathways and sculptural landscape features courtesy of the Chicago Park District and North Center urban design studio Altamanu. Using the address 300 East 11th Street, the new skate park would be the city’s fifth and would draw on the neighborhood’s local population of 60,000 students. Originally the project featured a grassy amphitheater, but that was whittled out of the new plan. In all, the skate park and associated "passive areas" will total three acres, said Chicago Park District spokesman Peter Strazzabosco. Bob O’Neil of the Grant Park Conservancy told Chicago Architecture Blog:

We were able to get input and design from all kinds of skaters and BMXers so it was crowd-sourced before crowd sourcing was cool.  We organized skaters back in 2006. The final design is innovative and allows it to be used by the entire public not just skaters and other ”wheelers”.  It will be a place for all types of people and park users to gather.

The skate park will be part of a 1.9-acre addition to the 325-acre downtown park’s southwest corner, between South Michigan Avenue and the Metra Electric District railroad tracks. The city will sell the land to the Park District for one dollar, assuming that sale is approved as expected at a City Council meeting on Wednesday.
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Chicago breaks ground on Navy Pier flyover for Lakefront Trail

Bicyclists and pedestrians cruising down Chicago’s 18-mile Lakefront Trail generally enjoy an exceptionally open, continuous and scenic path along Lake Michigan. But near Navy Pier they’re shunted inland, underneath a highway, onto sidewalks and through road crossings that interrupt their journey in the middle of one of the popular pathway's most congested corridors. The Navy Pier Flyover, announced in 2011, was designed to remedy that situation, and today Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the project has officially broken ground. Though it won’t be fully open until 2018, work began on schedule for the portion of the pathway between Jane Adams Park and the Ogden Slip. The first phase of construction has a budget of $22.5 million. The total cost will be $60 million, split over three phases. The Lakefront Trail and Lake Shore Drive will remain open throughout construction. To track progress and occasional detours during the work, the city has set up navypierflyover.com. Sporting bike lanes and space for pedestrians, the trail will be 16 feet wide and approximately as elevated as Lake Shore Drive.  LED lighting will supplement the “ambient light of Lake Shore Drive,” according to the city's website. The city called in architect Muller+Muller after studying the problem for years. That design, from 2011, remains intact. When complete the trail will allow for uninterrupted travel over the Chicago River, through DuSable Park, the Ogden Slip, across Illinois Street, Grand Avenue, Jane Addams Park and into the Ohio Street Tunnel. (The news comes among other improvements to the lakefront trail announced recently.) More design details are available here, in a presentation by the city made available online.
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Studio Gang’s Boathouse Opens, Celebrates Chicago River

Amid the clamor to take advantage of Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House this weekend, some may have missed the opening of Studio Gang’s boathouse along the Chicago River’s north branch. The WMS Boathouses at Clark Park opened Saturday to fanfare led by the Chicago Rowing Foundation, who were eager to celebrate the first of four new boathouses to be built along the Chicago River. The boathouse design translates the alternating “M” and inverted “V” shapes from a time-lapse motion image of rowing into the building’s basic organizing form. Targeting LEED Silver, it also features a landscaped garden where the site meets the river. The building’s upper clerestory collects southern daylight in the winter and ventilates in summer. Practice rooms for rowers are flooded with light and river views, instead of being shut away as in many athletic facilities. Similarly the building engages the river itself to a degree rarely seen in Chicago. Contrast the gently sloping approach of Studio Gang’s project to the bunker-like revetment across the river. As the city turns its attention to the downtown riverwalk, it's encouraging to see neighborhood projects embrace it, too. WMS, an electronic gaming company based on the river’s opposite bank, contribued $2 million to help build the boathouse on Chicago Park District land.