Children’s Museum Not Coming to Grant Park

Snow Geese at Daley Bicentennial Plaza
Snow Geese at Daley Bicentennial Plaza

After all the stürm und drang about the Chicago Children’s Museum being relocated to Daley BiCentennial Plaza against the wishes of Alderman Reilly and many of the 42nd Ward’s constituents, it turns out they are not moving from Navy Pier anytime soon. Victory, in other words.

In the latest sign that the controversial plan to move the Chicago Children’s Museum to Grant Park is crumbling, Chicago Park District officials on Wednesday unveiled revised plans for the section of the park where the museum wanted to relocate, but the plans (left) no longer include the museum.

“What’s going on with the Children’s Museum?” the park district’s director of planning and development, Gia Biagi, said while addressing the topic before a citizens group that advises the park district. “Well, they’re not coming to Grant Park.”

Her statement was met with applause from some of the people at the Grant Park Advisory Council and Conservancy’s meeting.

The council’s president, Bob O’Neill, said in an interview before the meeting that he has “no evidence that they’re going to locate (the museum) in Grant Park. In my opinion, it’s dead.”

Museum officials confirmed that the mostly underground, $100 million new home they envisioned is not included in the park district’s latest plan for the Richard J. Daley Bicentennial Plaza, which forms Grant Park’s northeast corner. But they were not ready to use the D-word.

“I wouldn’t say that the plan is dead. Daley Bi still remains a viable option,” said Natalie Kreiger, a museum spokeswoman. “The truth is that we’re just focusing most of our efforts on Navy Pier right now.”

O’Neill, previously a supporter of the museum’s move, said several factors had undermined it.

“It’s not a really good economy, so a capital campaign is dificult,” he said. In addition, he said, Navy Pier Inc., the non-profit that recently took over the pier’s operations from the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, is more strongly focused on cultural attractions and entertainment and is pushing hard to keep the museum at the pier.  “I can tell you that the Children’s Museum has dropped out of this project,” O’Neill said, referring to the revised plans for Daley Bicentennial Plaza. “They have not been in any of the dicussions. I haven’t talked to them since the beginning of summer.”

(click here to continue reading Cityscapes: Children’s Museum out of new plan for renovating Grant Park’s northeast corner; leader of park advisory group says controversial project is dead.)


Chicago Children’s Museum move stalls out

About a year ago, we had a flurry of posts opposing the move1 /2 /3 /4 /5 /6 /7 of the Chicago Children’s Museum from Navy Pier to a semi-subterranean location in a corner of Grant Park.

Daley Bicentennial Plaza

Just a year after winning hard-fought City Council permission to move to Grant Park, the Chicago Children’s Museum has hit a financial wall, raising a real prospect that its highly controversial new facility in the park’s northeast corner may never be built.

A moribund economy now may have a better chance of blocking the project than lawsuits by parks activists and neighborhood opponents. Fundraising has foundered while projected costs have climbed by tens of millions to $150 million or more, Crain’s has learned. Sources close to the project say odds now are 50-50 at best that the Grant Park plan will proceed.

As a result, the museum is considering its options, including downsizing the proposed facility, getting a cash infusion from the Chicago Park District or extending the lease on its current space at Navy Pier as far as 2025.

Museum board Chairman Gigi Pritzker, who was not available for comment, could tap her personal fortune to bail out the project, were she so inclined. But short of that, signs are multiplying that the proposed facility is turning into one more headache for Mayor Richard M. Daley, who spent considerable political capital pushing the museum plan through the council in June 2008 over the opposition of the local alderman, Brendan Reilly (42nd).

According to the museum’s latest available income-tax return, filed in May with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s charitable trust division, the museum had $28.1 million in “pledges receivable” as of June 30, 2008 — just $1 million more than it did a year earlier. Much of that is believed to be a continuing naming-rights commitment for the proposed facility from Northbrook-based Allstate Corp., which says it still backs the project.

[Click to read more details of Museum move stalls out | Crain’s Chicago Business]

Of course, wealthy heiress Gigi Pritzker could fund the construction out of her own vast wealth should she choose to, since she was one of the driving forces behind the whole fiasco, but the whole point was to get taxpayers to pay for the museum’s new location. Kind of like one of those sports stadium deals we fulminate against now and then. The Chicago Children’s Museum is a private museum, thus any profits collected will remain in the museum, and not the City of Chicago.

  1. for instance: Setback for the CCM juggernaut []
  2. or: Fight for Chicago’s treasured lakefront []
  3. or: Subterranean museum []
  4. or: The Grant Park land-grab []
  5. or: Chicago astroturf alert []
  6. or: Keep childrens museum out of Grant Park []
  7. or: Daley vs Reilly []

Death at Blommer Chocolate

The ABCs of Chocolate
[The ABCs of Chocolate-across from Blommer Chocolate Company]

First off, I have great sympathy for Gerardo Castillo’s family, that’s got to be a hard way to die.

Chicago officials and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration hunted Monday for the cause of a fatal gas release that killed a North Side man and hospitalized two others at a chocolate factory on the Near West Side over the weekend. Gerardo Castillo, 30, was killed Sunday in the second fatal accident since 2001 at Blommer Chocolate Co., 600 W. Kinzie St.

Castillo of the 1700 block of West Olive Avenue was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital after a release of ammonialike fumes at the factory. A substance mixed into the chocolate somehow triggered a gaseous chemical reaction, a Chicago Fire Department spokesman said.


OSHA last inspected the facility in 1994, said federal compliance officer Tricia Railton, who was reading from a report. Those safety investigations had to do with workers who were cleaning a piece of equipment that either had not been disconnected or was not marked as being potentially dangerous to the cleaners if turned on. It was not immediately clear if an injury prompted that inspection, Railton said. In 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent an inspector to check the factory after a neighbor complained about the aroma of burnt chocolate. The unidentified complainant also noted a powder-filled plume churning out of a roof duct.

Based on what the inspector saw two mornings in early September, the EPA cited Blommer for violating limits on opacity, or the amount of light blocked by the factory’s grinder dust.

[From U.S., city probing death at chocolate factory —]

But this EPA thing has been ongoing for a while. In fact, we mentioned it to Alderman Reilly when we met him in his office just prior to Reilly being sworn in, and his staff was going to look into it. Pollution and particulates are pollution and particulates, even if they smell like chocolate, and shouldn’t be allowed to permeate the lungs of local residents (like myself, ahem). I am curious as to what the details of this September investigation actually were.

Previous coverage of Blommer on my old blog

Blommer Continue reading “Death at Blommer Chocolate”

Esquire Blues Redux

The Esquire in the Gold Coast has been shuttered for a few years. The last film I saw there was Fahrenheit 9/11, so obviously it’s been a few years. Still, I’ve always liked having a theater there, regardless if I used it or not.

Esquire Blues

M Development has withdrawn plans to build a boutique hotel on the site of the shuttered Esquire Theater on Oak Street and instead will scale down the project to a two-to-three story structure housing about a half dozen luxury retailers.

Efforts to redevelop the historic Gold Coast movie house have been in flux since the theater shut down in September 2006. M Development, the Chicago-based owner of the property, originally proposed a mixed-use complex consisting of a 100-room hotel and retail shops to replace the theater and some adjacent property it also owns.

The hotel portion of the project, which would have risen about 10 stories, encountered resistance from residents worried about traffic congestion and about losing the intimate European character of the tony street, home to Jimmy Choo, Prada, Barneys, Harry Winston and Hermes.

[From M Development cancels plans to build Oak Street hotel —]

So now what to do? Alderman Reilly, whose district encompasses this location, eventually decided against allowing the hotel to be built.

Putting a relatively tall building in the middle of the block of European graystones “violates basic urban planning principles,” Reilly added in the letter. Most of the buildings on the street are about three stories high.

He also said the proposed hotel would burden the neighborhood’s infrastructure, in particular an alley off of Bellevue Place (a residential street one block north of Oak Street) heavily used by a condo building and Sutton Place Hotel.

The one block street in the Gold Coast has a storied history. After the Chicago Fire of 1871, prominent Chicagoans established the block as an enclave for the wealthy, hiring European-trained architects to build their mansions. Many of those buildings remain, although they now house $1,500 handbags and $150,000 diamond necklaces.

Jeffrey Shapack, president of M Development, said the firm decided to forego the hotel and concentrate on the few floors of retail in order to get the project off the ground.

“Based on numerous factors and considerations, we made the decision to move forward with a retail-commercial-only development on Oak Street with plans to begin development in 2009,” said Shapack. “This development has generated a lot of interest from luxury national and international retailers who like the prospect of having their own branded facade in a new building on Oak Street.”

M Development is also redeveloping Barneys New York down the street from the Esquire.

Plans are to turn the Barneys building at the corner of Oak and Rush Streets into a retail and restaurant complex and move the existing Barneys across the street into a new, bigger building.