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Shoreline Facelift Unfolds to Ease Fullerton Beach Traffic

One of the most sizable redesigns of the Chicago lakefront is underway and the change is predicted to be eye-popping.

It's taking place at Fullerton Avenue beach, where a confluence of beach-goers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and even theater-goers make it a popular and often congested destination. But, by next summer, everyone passing through the area will have a lot more breathing, sunning, and picnicking room.

Eddie Arruza has the story.

The new park will be as much a recreational space as an environmental upgrade. The city says the six new acres will help control lakefront erosion as well as prevent, if not eliminate, the occasional flooding along Lake Shore Drive and the Fullerton Avenue viaduct. To do that, the massive project requires something that has not been done in Chicago since the time of the Great 1871 Fire – landfilling the lake.

The city says it has taken precautions to ensure that the new landfilled park space is free of contamination and the project even includes some recycled sand.

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For lakefront visitors, the biggest improvement might be the addition of a new bike and running path aimed at reducing what was often a dangerous bottleneck of cyclists and pedestrians along the current path.

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The new path will be a 1,700-foot long stepped concrete protection wall, or revetment, right along the lake. It will also be a place for those who just want a place to sit and contemplate the lake and skyline.

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The nearly $32 million project is being funded by the Army Corps of Engineers, the city and the Chicago Park District. And it's the Park District that will be the last to upgrade the enlarged park area. Plans are still pending for improving the historic Theater on the Lake which two years ago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said would be turned into a year-round entertainment facility. 

The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, but the new park landscaping will not be ready until next spring.

For a detailed presentation of the project, click here. Below, a slideshow illustrates various phases of the project.