NEW CHICAGO BUSWAY   by: Richard F. Ward ...1999

Chicago competes with other cities for conventions, but the distance between
the McCormick Convention Center and the major downtown hotels has been a
transportation problem. The travel times along Michigan Avenue, Columbus
Drive, and the Outer Drive during morning and evening rush hours have been
too long. The Chicago Department of Transportation is now building a
dedicated busway from the Millennium "multi-modal" transportation center at
Michigan and Randolph to McCormick Place. The Metropolitan Pier and
Exposition Authority will fund the $35 million project. The busway will be
east of the depressed Illinois Central railroad tracks that are about 400
feet east of Michigan Avenue as they run through Grant Park. McCormick Place
events can draw up to 50,000 people per day from Chicago's 31,000 downtown
hotel rooms. The buses will cross the Chicago River on the Columbus Bridge
to Middle Columbus, then down a proposed ramp to Lower Columbus, make a
right turn at Lower Randolph, into the busway under the Millennium Park, and
then south to McCormick Place. The buses will probably make a stop at
Congress and at Roosevelt for a connection to the Museum Campus and Soldier
Field. And the buses will run back and forth all day with more frequent
service before and after major events.

The multi-modal transit center at Randolph and Michigan will link parking
for automobiles, CTA riders from adjacent bus routes, elevated and subway
lines via the PEDWAY, and METRA and South Shore train lines. Imagine landing
at O'Hare, taking the Blue Line to the Randolph Street stop, walking 2
blocks in the underground PEDWAY on a rainy day, and then a short bus ride
in the new busway to McCormick Place. All without getting wet and at a very
nominal cost. What a city!

Reference: Chicago Department of Transportation

Reprinted with permission from the Fall, 1999 issue of the Landscape Buyer Magazine.....
( Michael C. Davids, Publisher/Editor )

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The Chicago Millennium Project                                             by Richard F. Ward...1999

This is an exciting time to be in the landscape business in Chicago because a new jewel in our centerpiece of Grant Park is now being constructed. The Millennium Project is now being constructed between Randolph, Monroe, Michigan, and Columbus. Several levels of the new 2400 car parking garage now show visible progress and should be completed by Summer, 2000. And then the Millennium Park and Theatre Complex will be completed for the opening of summer programs in 2001. It will provide residents and visitors with year-round opportunities to enjoy gardens, ice skating, public concerts, art fairs, festivals and music and dance performances in a formal setting on the lakefront.

Chicago has been at the crossroads of travel and commerce in our modern history because of our central location. And as the birthplace of modern city planning under Daniel Burnham as we entered a new century in 1900, we have maintained the vision of a lakefront that was "Forever Open, Clear and, Free" as the historian Lois Wille wrote in 1972. The public vigil is just as necessary today as competing interests seek prime lakefront locations. In recent years, Mayor Richard Daley has maintained that vigil and the Millennium Project is a prime example of transforming an unsightly rail yard into a world class cultural and recreational park.

How can the readers of Landscape Buyer magazine benefit from the Millennium Project? The greening of Chicago that has taken place in recent years under our city's leadership has increased the appreciation of the landscape industry throughout our region.  And this new jewel can only increase the value that all property owners place on their landscaping. Commercial centers, industrial sites, park districts, residential complexes and municipalities now realize more than ever that the quality of their landscaping reflects their aesthetic appreciation and attitude towards their neighbors. When something is highlighted, awareness increases and quality invariably improves.

Landscape architect Ted Wolff of Wolff Clements and Associates has been selected to coordinate the ideas for the Millennium Project. They are currently evaluating an Australian system that lays sod on a bed of sand that includes a layer of mesh filaments. A test area has been installed near the Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park. "Soil compaction is the death of turf grass," Wolff said. But they expect that ruts from trucks and heavy pedestrian traffic will not affect the smooth surface because of the resiliency of the system. Soldier Field uses a sand system but without the mesh filament layer. It is a high-maintenance grass system and needs frequent irrigation so the grass roots receive the proper nourishment.

The new park will cover more than 1 million square feet and will include a combination outdoor music pavilion and indoor 1500 seat auditorium which will share the backstage areas. The Grant Park Music Festival and other events will be scheduled on the outdoor stage during the summer months and the 12 groups of the Music and Dance Theatre will be scheduled primarily during the remaining 9 months on the indoor stage. The outdoor music pavilion will accommodate 12,000 to 14,000 people with good sight lines from the Great Lawn, the seasonal seating, and from the sloping oval perimeter.

Funding for the Millennium area of Grant Park will come from selling $160 million of revenue bonds to be repaid with the parking garage profits. A private donor campaign led by John Bryan of Sara Lee and Donna La Pietra of Kurtis Productions is planning to raise another $50 million for enhancements and endowment. The Music and Dance Theatre Chicago will raise the funds to construct the theatre.

Community concerns about preserving unobstructed views through the park were considered and the entire theatre facility was moved approximately 40 feet below the level of Lower Randolph. And the theatre entrance was reduced to a transparent 5000 square-foot indoor garden with café dining and a public information center. The 40-foot high transparent entrance will complement the Amoco plaza just across the street on Upper Randolph. This new facility will further extend the Randolph Street Theatre District east across Michigan Avenue and will be the only mid-sized theatre in the District.

As the plans for the Millennium Park become a reality, everyone in the Chicagoland area landscaping community will be watching for innovative ideas that can be incorporated in our many on-going greening projects. It is an exciting time to be in this industry.

The Landscape Buyer would like to thank Edward Uhlir and Kara Tourville of the Millennium Park Offices, KemperLesnik Communications, and Michael McCann  Illustrations for their resources in preparing this article. The writer, Richard F. Ward, is a retired United Airlines Captain that now lives on Chicago's lakefront overlooking the Millennium site. He is a Director of the Near North Association of Condominiums (NNAC) and a member of the Grant Park Advisory Council (GPAC) and the New Eastside Association of Residents (NEAR).


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