Wednesday, February 09, 2005

More Chicago Park News


In the latest saga of the corporatization of Chicago's public spaces, Chicagoist has a post on the city's deal with radio and billboard monopolist, Clear Channel to build a temporary concert venue on Northerly Island--the former home of Meigs Field.

Meigs Field was the small, executive airport that Chicago's Mayor Daley rendered inoperable in March 2003 by sending bulldozers in the middle of the night to destroy the runway under the auspices of protecting the city from terrorism. Of course the airport was not part of Daniel Burnham's brilliant 1909 lakefront plan. Daley had wanted to change uses when the 50-year lease for the airport expired in 1996. Repeated legal wrangling and obstruction from downstate politicians and special interest aviation groups stifled efforts to close the airport.

Although Mayor Daley's tactics and rationale for closing the airport raised some eyebrows, the airport was clearly a poor use of public space on the city's lakefront. The Lake Michigan Federation has a great proposal to turn the space into a nature preserve which, conceptually, has the support of Daley.

The new agreement is for Clear Channel to operate the concert facility for three years with two one-year extension options. In contrast to concerts at the Grant Park pavilion, Clear Channel's facility will charge for tickets with the city getting a share of the revenues.

While it is understandable for the city to find new sources of revenue to develop the park, given the potential for profitmaking in this venture, there is a strong possibility that the vision for a permanent, public-use, nature park could be compromised.