Chicago Mayor Emanuel Banks on Revamped Navy Pier to Lure Tourists

The massive redevelopment is a public-private initiative to boost sustainability, expand entertainment venues and reinvigorate Chicago’s tradeshow and convention business.

Photo courtesy of JLallen1111’s Flickr stream View of Navy Pier from John Hancock Observatory. The “Centennial Vision” redevelopment will create a new pedestrian promenade, expanding the connection between the city and lake.

Navy Pier, the entertainment jewel of the Midwest, inching toward a 100-year anniversary in 2016, will receive a $1.1 billion facelift of its Pierscape, or public spaces. The treatment includes a 10,000-seat arena at McCormick Place for DePaul's Blue Demon basketball team, a new park and 54,000 square feet of upgraded dining and entertainment venues. It telegraphs that the Mayor's office is serious about bringing more tourism dollars to Chi Town. 

The redesign team is parts New York and Chicago. Landscape architecture whizzes at James Corner Field Operations of New York – near completion on seven acres of Civic Center Parks in Santa Monica, Calif. – are masters of the urban redesign. They lead the overall effort, working in tandem with the city and Chicago’s Gensler architecture firm, who'll reinterpret the interiors. People nodded their heads at this choice. Gensler, an international brand, reimagined the Columbia College Chicago campus to stunning effect. These are big guns on-board with a blueprint.

But being Chicago, even good news is baked in controversy. The initial leg of the “Centennial Vision” rehab gets underway this fall at a price tag of $166 million. It’s a pretty ambitious list: South Dock and South Arcade get the works, renovate the Family Pavilion, extend the Children’s Museum, plus put a shine on the Gateway Park fountain. The City of Chicago, which chafed about losing $5 million (!) on the Taste of Chicago, is pitching in $110 million  -- we have the money, really. Through the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority Fund. The balance is picked up from private business and the Chicago Children’s Museum. Even the press release mentions they'll work until the money runs out. Both DePaul University and McCormick Place will contribute $70 million each for the new arena, scheduled to break ground in 2014, and could be just the ticket to finally kill the Blue Demon’s losing streak. C’mon guys, you haven’t stepped on a NCAA court since, what, 2004?

Navy Pier, located at 600 E. Grand Ave., open during transformation. Grab your sweetie to watch the fireworks or take a long boat tour and see Chicago from the waves. Call (312) 595-PIER and listen to a schedule of ongoing attractions and coming events.

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