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Construction of Maggie Daley Park hits halfway mark

The constructiareMaggie Daley Park photographed October 3 2013 Chicago. | Michael R. Schmidt-For Sun-Times Media

The construction area of Maggie Daley Park photographed October 3, 2013 in Chicago. | Michael R. Schmidt-For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 30, 2013 7:47PM

It might look like a pile of rubble with just a hint of green, but work on the north end of Grant Park — what will become Maggie Daley Park — is about halfway done.

A soft opening is tentatively planned for next year. But in 2015, when planners expect the park to be officially open, visitors will be able to walk up a hill at Maggie Daley Park and get a sweeping view of Lake Michigan. The park, formerly the Daley Bicentennial Plaza, will also see: a skating rink in the shape of a ribbon; meadows; “Geofoam”-created hills, and paths for bikers and walkers to get through to the lake path.

“The images that people saw as the final drawings — that’s what’s being built,” said Bob O’Neill, president of Grant Park Conservancy.

The $55 million park — announced in August 2012 — is being renamed in honor of Chicago’s late first lady.

It’s being paid for with public and privately raised funds, city officials said: $10 million from private funding; $35 million from leasing the parking garages beneath Millennium Park and Grant Park, and $5 million from Chicago Park District capital funds.

In tandem with the project, Chicago Loop Parking LLC — the operator of the Millennium Park, Grant Park North, Grant Park South and East Monroe Street garages — is paying for its own repair of the East Monroe garage, according to O’Neill. That includes indoor garage repairs and building a membrane above the garage, which will ultimately be the foundation of the park.

But the company may not lose much money in the repair. Last month, a Cook County judge rejected an attempt by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration to overturn a nearly $60 million arbitration award City Hall owes the company. A panel of independent arbitrators found earlier this year that former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration violated the city’s 99-year, $563 million deal with Chicago Loop Parking when it allowed a competing public garage to open about a block from the nearest privately run garage.

Park district officials say it’s the right time to renovate the park; the East Monroe Street Parking Garage, which supports Daley Bicentennial Park, was in need of extensive work that required the entire plaza be removed.

In phase one of construction, which began in October 2012, crews have so far removed about 22,500 cubic yards of top soil, 82,000 cubic yards of fill, 14.5 total cubic yards of soil and 800 trees. The soil was moved to Peanut Park, just east of the park, where crews will soon re-use the soil for the new park.

Crews also laid the foundation that will support a climbing wall, lighting and skating rink. The roof of the garage is about 60 percent complete.

Phase two began in August. Walsh Construction Company II, LLC was awarded the second phase of work for the renovation — a $42 million contract — that includes earthwork, utilities, paving, architectural and program elements, soil placement and planting, according to Chicago Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner.

Crews have started setting stone on the foundation, then placing soil and fill. About 625 cubic yards of stone has been placed on the north end so far.

“Phase two is basically putting the park back in there,” O’Neill said.

Once constructed, between Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park, Chicago will have between 45 and 50 acres of a green roof over the parking garage there. “Geofoam” — or lightweight-fill material — from Daley Bicentennial Plaza has been removed but is being recycled so crews can create hills in the park.

O’Neill called the park is “more natural and much more informal” than Daley Bicentennial Park. And very kid-friendly, featuring a three-acre play garden.

“You’ll be able to walk up hills and see the lake,” O’Neill said. “When this is done . . . it’s going to be a much more green, sort of organic flow. Whereas Millennium Park is more structural and formal, this is more nature-oriented.”

One thousand new trees of varying species will be planted to avoid problems like the emerald ash borer. Although hundreds of old trees were removed, 38 trees were saved and remain in Peanut Park — which will ultimately become part of Maggie Daley Park.

Reclaimed wood from more than 150 honey locust trees will be used in a new children’s play area. And some will be truncated (turned upside down) so they won’t rot, O’Neill said.

A park district website,, features two webcams to view the construction.


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