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What's next for Northerly Island?

New Plan: Rendered aerial view as posted on facebook by the Northerly Island Planning Process Committe.

December 2, 2010 3:16:47 PM PST
Northerly Island, once home to a downtown airport that the mayor bulldozed in the dead of night, could become part of Richard M. Daley's legacy to Chicago.

On Thursday night, the Chicago Park District, ChicagoParkDistrict.com, is set to unveil the future plan for Northerly Island, a 91-acre peninsula that juts off Chicago's lakefront near the Museum Campus.

The plot of land has remained largely undeveloped since, in 2003, Mayor Daley used the threat of terrorism as a reason to tear up the airstrip at Meigs Field. The midnight move left several planes permanently grounded and paved the way for the new plan that would convert most of the land into a people-friendly sanctuary.

The plan calls for a huge nature park with vegetation, walkways, water reefs and a new concert pavilion.

"It will look, in some ways, of it being in the water in Wisconsin or Michigan," said Bob O'Neill, who heads the Grant Park Conservancy. Except-- the views to the west will include Chicago's skyline. That, according to O'Neill, is what makes the project unique.

"No other global city in the world has this opportunity that we have right before us, 90 acres that can be turned into a world class nature area with interaction with humans," said O'Neill.

The plans call for a "green-designed" pavilion to replace Charter One Pavilion.

"As you come to the south end it gets more natural, different topography, different eco systems and a complete natural waters that intergrate nature and water with the habitat," said O'Neill.

O'Neill said the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium will make use of the new Northerly Island and kids field trips at those attractions will extend to the outdoors.

Northerly Island was going to be used for the 2016 Olympics, but Chicago's Olympic loss accelerated Mayor Daley's dream of using the open space for nature.

"The plans are good and will basically try to make it a wonderful nature area and also involve people in kayaking and other things that we have been talking about for years," Mayor Daley.

But will the plan survive another mayor?

"The next mayor will see this as an important civic project that appeals to a lot of people," said

The plan will be unveiled Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 S. Michigan. The meeting is open to the public.


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