Children's museum may stay at Navy Pier

March 23, 2011 2:22:02 PM PDT
The Chicago Children's Museum may not be leaving Navy Pier after all.

New leadership at the Pier has lured museum managers back to the table. The two sides are talking about whether the museum's controversial proposed move to Grant Park is necessary after all.

The Chicago Children's Museum is a big draw for Navy Pier, and the concern is that if it moves it would leave a big hole.

An average of 380,000 people a year visit the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier. Those numbers help make the Pier the most visited tourist attraction in the city and state.

"We knew the Children's museum was here with the gardens, and we can spend a whole day here. If it was at Grant Park, we would have missed this opportunity," said Colleen Hanushewsky who was visiting the museum Wednesday.

The Children's Museum Board, with the backing of Mayor Daley, has been pushing to take over a corner of Grant Park near Randolph where they would build a larger facility, partially underground. Green groups, and some Grant Park neighbors, protested. Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel is also against it.

The museum's president released a statement saying: "[The] Chicago Children's Museum has agreed to discuss whether the plans for a revitalized Navy Pier could support our goals for a new museum. At the same time we continue to plan for a new home at Daley Bicentennial Plaza."

"I'd like it to stay here because there's lots of other stuff to do," said Joey Steffens, Children's Museum visitor.

"There's a little bit of everything out here to just enjoy. It would be a loss," said Anthony McGowan, Children's Museum visitor.

Plans are in the works for a massive makeover of the Pier that may include an enlarged Ferris Wheel, new restaurants and shopping. One possibility would be to move the museum to bigger space in underused festival halls.

Long-time merchants say Navy Pier needs an anchor tenant like the Children's museum.

"I think it's good for the Pier, that it brings in a lot of people, that it's a great location," said Peter Rudofsky, Navy Pier shop owner.

The battle isn't over rent. The Chicago Children's Museum only pays Navy Pier $1 a year.

As for a decision, no one is offering a timeline. Neighbors of the proposed site at Grant Park have filed suit, so any move would have clear a court challenge first.