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Park District awards 1st construction contract for Grant Park overhaul

Updated: September 12, 2012 10:26PM

The Chicago Park District has awarded contracting giant McHugh Construction a $7.4 million job to begin work on the overhaul of the north end of Grant Park.

During its monthly meeting Wednesday, park district commissioners voted to approve the deal — the first construction contract awarded in what is expected to be a multi-million dollar project.

Robert Rejman, the park district’s planning director, explained during a committee hearing that McHugh was the lowest bidder and would meet the city requirements on city contract set-asides: 25 percent of the contract should go to minority-owned businesses and 5 percent to women-owned businesses.

In February, the Sun-Times reported McHugh was at the heart of a federal investigation into minority- and women-owned business fraud on several of the biggest government projects in Chicago in recent years. Federal authorities charged a Willowbrook woman for acting as the owner of a “sham” woman-owned business — one that McHugh hired as a subcontractor on four city contracts totaling $200 million.

The subcontractors didn’t do any work, instead acting as a “pass-through” so McHugh could “avoid requirements intended to benefit women- or minority-owned and disadvantaged business enterprises,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement earlier this year.

McHugh hasn’t been charged with a crime in connection with the case, which is pending.

McHugh was hired by the park district to do “Phase I” of the overhaul of what is known as Daley Bicentennial Plaza. Their main job will be pulling up the park land over the subterranean East Monroe Garage that has been plagued by leaks. Other crews will replace a waterproof membrane in the roof area of the garage.

Park planners have laid out a plan to take the flat 20-acre stretch of land bounded by Columbus and Lake Shore Drive, Randolph and Monroe and turn it into a green space with some gentle, rolling hills, rock-climbing structures, and an ice-skating ribbon.

In other action, park district commissioners:

◆ approved renaming the Fernwood Park basketball courts at 104TH and Wallace after the late McGlother “Mac” Irvin, who some consider the “godfather of Chicago basketball.” His program became nationally recognized and over 30 years, he mentored dozens of players who went on to play professionally including Antoine Walker and Juwan Howard.

◆ moved ahead with a roughly $50 million bond initiative to help pay for capital projects.

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