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Maggie Daley Park Restaurant

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Via Gazette:

Differing views on Maggie Daley Park restaurant

A new restaurant slated for development in Maggie Daley Park is drawing opposing reactions from two groups that support Chicago parks.

Friends of the Parks opposes the restaurant, citing conflict with the Lakefront Protection Ordinance (LPO). The Grant Park Conservancy favors the restaurant, based on positive feedback at public meetings.

Maggie Daley Park, opened in December 2014, is an activity-focused area within Grant Park featuring a three-acre play garden, rock climbing structures, and an ice skating ribbon. The park-within-a-park is bordered by Columbus Drive, Randolph Street, Monroe Street, and Lake Shore Drive. Officials expect the restaurant to open at the south end of the park in spring 2016.

“Many of the benefits that the lakefront provides us are available today because of early Chicagoans who fought to ensure that the lake was available to all citizens,” Friends of the Parks director of policy Melanie L. Moore said.

“While we have supported Maggie Daley Park previously, we have concerns about the restaurant’s footprint, appearance from Monroe Street, and impact on the park,” Moore added.

“Policy #5 of the Lakefront Protection Ordinance states: ‘Maintain and improve the formal character and open water vista of Grant Park with no new aboveground structures permitted.’ The open vista on Monroe Street will be blocked with the proposed glass structure,” according to Moore.

Moore noted the LPO’s stated purpose is “To insure that the Lakefront Parks…are devoted only to public purposes and to insure the integrity of and expand the quantity and quality of the Lakeshore Parks.”

“The rationale of the restaurant is to draw people from Maggie Daley Park to a private restaurant,” Moore added. “While we do support the Park District having concessions available to the general public at this site, the scope of this project far exceeds what was originally presented to our organization.”

These concerns did not arise at either of two public meetings hosted by the Grant Park Conservancy in January and February, according to GPC president Bob O’Neill.

“We went out to the public with two well attended meetings,” said O’Neill, noting more than 200 people came to one of the meetings. “We heard nothing but positive feedback and praise for it” [the restaurant], O’Neill added. “The innovative design is airy glass, built around mature existing trees. The sides open for indoor-outdoor dining in the park. It has a green roof—you can walk onto it—and it extends the park to Monroe. It will provide food service for all of Maggie Daley Park, to take food out to picnic in the park. It has lots of bathrooms. It’s a place to go in winter as well.

“All in all, it brings an amenity,” O’Neill said. “We are trying to get people to use the parks yearround, and it allows that. We’re really big on green space, but we also want people to use it.”

He added that private funds would pay for the building, with the operation generating revenue for the Chicago Park District. The Park District Board of Commissioners in mid-January approved authorization to enter into a concession agreement with Four Corners Tavern Group to design, build, and operate the restaurant; run a concession kiosk; and cater special events at Maggie Daley Park. Four Corners Tavern Group operates ten establishments, including Schoolyard Tavern, West End Bar, and Ranalli’s.

“The operator was chosen pursuant to a publicly advertised notice,” said Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner.

“Maggie Daley Park is one of the Chicago Park District’s newest premier parks. Such an amenity would serve as a benefit to visitors and a source of revenue to the Chicago Park District.

“The City of Chicago appreciates the feedback of the community and organizations including Friends of the Parks and takes into consideration their comments and suggestions,” she added.

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