Battle over children's museum move heats up

May 2, 2008 4:34:29 PM PDT
Stakes in the fight over relocating the Chicago Children's Museum to Grant Park got a little higher Friday. The museum unveiled a revised design that it says would lower the building's profile dramatically, sinking much of it into space now occupied by a field house and parking lot in Grant Park, doing nothing to alter the views of the essential nature of the park that has been protected from development for 172 years. But opponents aren't satisfied and likely never will be.

A veteran of the struggles to save Chicago's "front step" from development pondered the latest offerings from the Chicago Children's Museum. A glass-enclosed structure, part of a 100,000 square-foot development that would work with the gently sloping landscape of the pristine piece of real estate to give kids more room to run, play and learn. Forget it, says Don Young.

"We are concerned that no matter what they say as part of their layout, they start to put it together, they may change it slightly," saod Young.

Four separate decisions of the Illinois Supreme Court have confirmed that building structures in Grant Park for attractions or services that charge admission runs counter to the law. The legacy of fights to save the lakefront has been waged by civic visionaries such as Daniel Burnham and Marshall Field.

But proponents of the plan say the children's museum has outgrown its current home at Navy Pier, and a new installation in Grant Park incorporates concerns residents had with previous designs.

"We are not talking about bringing a new building, we are talking about a new resource to the park," said the museum's president, Jennifer Farrington.

Mayor Daley supports the plan but it is opposed by 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly, who worries about the precedent development would set, not to mention the loss of aldermanic power.

"But what this is really about is, I think, the museum wanting to move into an area where no one else has been able to go, and they look at that a real amenity, however it is illegal," Reilly said.

"I think there are some folks whose minds probably won't be changed because they don't want their minds to be changed," said Farrington.

"They don't belong there. They flat out don't belong there," said Young.

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