New effort to block museum's move to Grant Park

May 5, 2008 3:58:09 PM PDT
A group opposed to relocating the Chicago Children's Museum launches a petition to put pressure on the city to keep it out of Grant Park.

The group, which hopes to get thousands of signatures against the move, began its petition just three days after a revised design for an underground museum at Grant Park was unveiled.

Opponents of the plan said public park land should never be used for private, profit-making ventures. However, supporters of the relocation said-- although never tested in a court of law -- the existence of Millennium Park and the Harris Theater in Grant Park challenge that idea.

The Chicago Children's Museum is currently at Navy Pier. But museum officials said it has outgrown its space and want to move into Grant Park.

"I like the idea of rejuvenating Grant Park. You've got all of Millennium Park here. People are really starting to come visit it. Bring the Gold Coast this way," said Mike Genovese, relocation supporter.

The museum wants to replace the existing bunker-like field house at Daley Bicentennial Plaza with a $100 million underground museum and a new field house. Because of growing complaints, architects substituted built-in park slope windows with four 16-foot skylight columns.

Despite the modifications, the design is not winning over all the high-rise residents across from the park.

"It should not be here. They should be looking at alternative locations," said Peggy Figiel, Save Grant Park.

"There is no historical value to the Children's Museum. It is an indoor playground. And, if children want to play, they want an outdoor playground," said Barbara Magness, high-rise resident.

Museum officials said they looked at three dozens sites before selecting the Grant Park location. Opponents said many of Chicago's other neighborhoods would be glad to have the museum.

"We really want to cater to all of Chicago's children. We need a central location. A central downtown location is so critical," said Jennifer Farrington, Chicago Children's Museum

While the project has the solid support of Mayor Daley, 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly sais his opposition is not only about what's best for kids, but a law that's kept Grant Park free and clear for 172 years.

"If they're intent on leaving Navy Pier, we'll help, but we cannot be violating the special provisions," said ALd. Reilly.

The proposal goes before the planning commission next week and then on to the zoning committee before the city council would vote in June. If it gets that far, lawsuits are expected to try to stop the relocation.


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