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Uptown Artist's Paintings Envision Proposed Edgewater 'Promenade'

By Benjamin Woodard | December 18, 2013 7:09am
 Artist Paul Noah created conceptual drawings of a lakefront promenade along Edgewater's lakefront.
Edgewater Beachwalk Concept
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EDGEWATER — The ambitious proposal to transform Edgewater's high-rise-heavy lakefront into a pedestrian and bicycle promenade got a fresh look thanks to Uptown artist Paul Noah.

Noah, who splits his time between his Minnesota home and his office at the Uptown-based Institute of Cultural Affairs, used pencil and marker to create a series of conceptual drawings that he hopes would inspire the imaginations of Edgewater residents.

"I’ll just be anxious to see how it develops," the 69-year-old Noah said of the grassroots campaign to get the project built, spearheaded by Edgewater's Morry Matson. "We'll see where it goes. It’s really fun."

The proposal calls for the construction of a promenade and boardwalk that would snake along Edgewater's lakefront and connect the end of the lakefront bike trail with Thorndale Avenue.

Eventually, the proposed pathway could link Edgewater's beaches with those of Rogers Park.

Matson held a competition throughout the fall to find the best conceptual drawing of what the boardwalk could be. He said he only received a couple submissions, and Noah, a retired billboard painter, took the grand prize of $100.

Matson said he hopes the drawings would excite Edgewater residents' "senses and inspiration," resulting in support for a promenade "that would enhance the enjoyment of Lake Michigan."

But the "Edgewater Beachwalk" has its critics.

Sheridan Road high-rise residents Philip Bernstein and John Redell told DNAinfo Chicago in July that Matson's plan is just a reboot of Daniel Burnham's 1909 vision to have all of Chicago buffered to the east with manmade beaches and would only result in putting "dirt in the water."

Dan Luna, Ald. Harry Osterman's 48th Ward chief of staff, said the project — which Matson estimates could cost more than $79 million — lacks funding.

He said the next step for organizers would be to have a lakefront study commissioned to detail the effects the boardwalk and promenade would have.

Osterman has yet to support such a study, he said.

Matson said he formed a nonprofit group — called "Edgewater Beachwalk" — since announcing his plans. He also said he submitted nearly 1,500 signatures of support for the project to Osterman and other officials.

Matson also submitted the signatures to the Board of Elections to include a referendum for Edgewater precincts during the Nov. 4 general election that would ask whether voters would support the project.

Edgewater Beachwalk director Raymond Wohl, 58, said the project is all about more access to the lakefront.

Wohl, a retired art teacher who has lived on Sheridan Road for 17 years, said he fought a developer's plan in 2000 to build a 20-story high rise on a vacant plot of land between two high rises, one of the only open spaces in Edgewater with direct access to the water.

He said he and his neighbors won the fight, and now the empty lot, near Granville Avenue, is known as Park 559.

His dream, he said, is to keep Chicago's waterfront like that found in "Rio de Janeiro, a city on the ocean that’s spectacular."