Committee approves Children's Museum move

Critics, supporters speak at zoning hearing

After seven long hours of testimony for and against the proposed new children's museum at Grant Park, the zoning committee decided about 5 p.m. to accept the proposal.

"Dozens of civic groups, citywide civic groups with broad membership base were out working this weekend and every day for the city council making sure people called their alderman," said Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward.

The Coalition to Save Grant Park says the fight is not over.

"It is public land and heavily developed it is a crime to all the citizens of Chicago," said Alison Dallmer, museum opponent.

Early Thursday morning, protestors wanting to save Grant Park gathered outside council chambers. The children's museum says they have outgrown their facility at Navy Pier and that the current museum is outdated, not child friendly and unacceptable.

"There is no adverse impact on property and that is with the Millennium Park, it will enhance the value of surrounding properties," said Ted Novak, museum attorney.

The architect says the new facility would take parking space, would be state of the art and be below ground.

"That's the sort of design that we are proposing here, something that actually improves and makes the park completely accessible, completely green. It doesn't take one square inch of park space. In fact, it gives more park space," said Mark Sexton, museum architect

"When you see the value of these programs for kids as a part of the museum, it's wonderful," said Paula Upshaw, museum proponent.

"It will expose children to a wonderful resource that young children otherwise would probably never get to see," said icholas Canelos, museum proponent.

Opponents are questioning why alternate sites haven't been seriously considered.

"I'm trying to understand why the museum would want to put children mostly underground in a parking garage and call that a mostly enriching experience," said Reilly.

"This structure is above ground, a legal structure, it is a private institution charging admission on public land," said Peggy Figiel, opponent.

The issue is not over. It's expected to go before the city council Wednesday and they feel it's going to be a long, drawn-out, heated debate.

Mayor Daley is a strong supporter of the plan to move the Chicago Children's Museum to Grant Park. He believes the central location is key for public access and says because of the design, no green space will be lost in the park.

Critics of the plan - including local aldermen and preservationists - argue moving the museum to the north end of Grant Park violates rules against building on park land. Protestors have been warned that anyone who disrupts the hearing will be removed from the room.

Last time the proposal came before the zoning board, it deferred voting. Critics took that as a sign it did not have enough votes to pass.

The proposed design has more than 11,000 square feet and would be below ground.

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