In case you've been wondering what is behind the fence between Randolph and Monroe Street on Lake Shore Drive, we wanted to take you behind that fence to look at the progress being made in Maggie Daley Park. Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the rebuilt 20-acre park would be named after the late Maggie Daley.
It doesn't look much like a park now, but the Chicago Park District promises Maggie Daley Park will be another jewel in Chicago’s lakefront parks. Construction began in October 2012. That’s when contractors began taking out all of the old park, including the playground, tennis courts, trees, and 105,000 cubic yards of top soil. Underneath all that soil is the roof of the East Monroe parking garage.
“In order to repair the roof and redo the entire waterproofing membrane, we had to take the entire park off,” said Rob Rejman of the Chicago Park District. “So that's where we are now, looking this way. You can see what used to be dirt and park is now exposed roof structure.”
The dirt was hauled to the east side of the park, known as “Peanut Park” by the locals.
“It was several months and about 5,000 truckloads of dirt that went just off-site across the way to Peanut Park,” said Rejman. “And we’ll be bringing that back, amended and improved soil composition, back on to the park. And that actually saves us a lot of money to be able to manage all that soil on-site.”
The next step is waterproofing the entire roof. That's what the black membrane is where the work has begun in the northwest corner.
“The protection board will go down, a drainage layer, and we will be building the park back up with new soils, new plantings, and all kinds of great park features. So you will be seeing soil coming back on in the spring after the concrete repairs, waterproofing, and foundations are done. And then we’ll be building the park all through next year,” said Rejman. “We want to have an opening late in 2014, so that we have the new skating ribbon open for the winter. And then there will still be some landscape plantings and whatnot in spring of 2015, but we want to have an opening for the winter of 2014. This is meant to be a park for all seasons. That was part of the big push to have this really unique skating ribbon in the park, so that we can activate the park in the wintertime and bring Chicago out to its front yard all year round.”
A cement support column will be the base for the light fixtures that will encircle the quarter-mile skating ribbon. When it’s finished, the dirt will cover the column most of the way to the top; only nine inches at the top of the column will be visible.
In the summer, the skating ribbon will become a path for rollerskaters, scooters and special events. The skating ribbon will encircle two rock climbing structures for beginners and experts, staffed by park district employees.
Red cones now mark where the base of the expert rock climbing structure will go. Green rebar will be used to construct the climbing wall.
A three-acre play garden will anchor the southeast end of the park. Custom designed play structures and plantings will follow a children's fantasy theme.
There is one part of the existing park that will remain. The Cancer Survivors’ Garden was not over the garage roof so it did not have to be removed.
Because the parking garage only had to be repaired, not built as in Millennium Park, the costs are far less. The park district says the tab will come in at just about $60 million; in contrast to the $475 million for Millennium Park.
“It’s being funded currently through a parking reserve, so when the garages were leased originally, there was a parking fund that was put aside for this actual purpose, so that was why it was set aside knowing that this work was going to have to be done,” said Rejman. “We are now working with a budget and a private funding campaign that gets to do something really special.”
“Just like all the parks that are built on a structure like this, every few generations are going to have to reinvent what can be in the park because we are on a roof,” said Rejman. “This particular job, Millennium Park, and a lot of the places in the city that are elevated on structure, they go through these cycles of reinvention and reconstruction.”
It has been 37 years since the East Grant Park Garage and park were completed. With new construction techniques, particularly in waterproofing, the engineers say Chicagoans should enjoy the new Maggie Daley Park for at least the next 65 years.
Watch a time-lapse movie to check out the construction from November 16, 2012 until the present. The live camera feed takes a photo every 15 minutes.