October 2, 2001

Residents reject latest plans for the Point

Park District officials unveiled their latest proposal for the renovation of Promontory Point last night in front of over 200 Hyde Park residents and Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston. Held at the University's Oriental Institute, the meeting showcased the city's plan, which failed to meet the requirements of local residents.

Hyde Park residents and Park District officials settled last May on nine points of agreement. In the new proposal, the city described its plans for a new revetment, which is a wall designed to protect the lakeshore, at the Point. City plans call for a concrete and metal structure, which many in Hyde Park feel is not aesthetically pleasing.

Many Hyde Park residents, led by Greg Lane, want the city to rebuild the revetment with an all limestone design. “There is no reason why an all stone design is not possible," Lane said.

City Environment Commissioner Bill Abolt cited several problems with rebuilding with limestone. “The availability of limestone is important," Abolt said. “There is not enough current limestone to rebuild."

Abolt went on to add that the cost of limestone and the difficulty in obtaining it would prevent an all-limestone design from being built.

The Hyde Park Community Task Force has created a counter-proposal to build a new revetment in concrete but to clad it in limestone, giving it a more natural aesthetic. “An all limestone design is not possible," said task force member Peter Rossi, who is also a professor at the Graduate School of Business. “The people at the meeting tonight sensitized the park district to the need of limestone in the design."

The city had hoped that the residents of Hyde Park would find its newest plan acceptable. Unlike previous plans, this one included a restructuring of the revetment to make it similar in size to the current revetment. Older designs would have blocked the view of the lake from Lake Shore Drive, one Chicago's busiest streets.

This new concrete-based design also would have provided handicapped access to the revetment, unlike the current limestone at the Point park. Park officials also touted the design's use of the old limestone at certain points of the park.

“The limestone would be used to create stone platforms," said Park District Superintendent David Doig. These platforms would recreate the current limestone revetment. Also, under the plan, limestone would be used to create a larger beachfront at the 57th Street beach.

Another point conceded to the Hyde Park residents in this plan is to stagger the construction schedule. Instead of closing the park for two years as the original plans called for, this plan would have closed only the north shore of the Point Park in the spring of 2002. In spring of 2003, as work continues on the north shore, the south shore would be closed. The north shore would be reopened in June or July of 2003.

The 57th Street beach would be closed in 2002 and 2003 while a new underpass would be built under Lake Shore Drive. In summer 2004, the project would be completed with the reopening of the south shore of the point.

Residents were also concerned about the landscape of Point Park. “We are taking extensive measures to protect trees and other landscaping," said one city park official. The new revetment would be built lakeward from its current position in an effort to preserve the park."

Alderman Hairston called for a vote on the city's proposal, and the residents at the meeting rejected it. The Alderman then called on the park officials to review the Task Force's concrete-limestone design and also to recheck the feasibility of an all limestone design.