SOUTH LOOP — With an expected budget totaling at $2.5 million instead of the $3.5 million activists expected, the design of a skate park planned for the southern tip of Grant Park has been scaled back, newly-released renderings reveal.
Initial plans for an artificially raised landscape with a stage and projection screen in the basin of a valley were scrapped, and the high-concept wheel-friendly surfaces were adapted to a more conventional skate park layout, with quarter pipes, grinding rails and other structures grouped together.
While the initial design envisioned pedestrians and skaters sharing wheel-friendly pathways, the new design concentrates most of the skating features in a single area.
"This site is a tricky site because of the railroad tracks and because it is sunken, but ... the tough site led to more creativity to do something really interesting," said Bob O'Neill, president of the Grant Park Conservancy, who's been working with the Chicago Park District to advance the development plan.
The viewing platform, a recent addition planned for the west side of the park overlooking the skate park, "will be a great place to look down at the park and the activity of the wheelers and performance areas."
Dan Nagelberg, a lifelong Chicagoan and skater who lives four blocks from the planned development site, said "it's a great-looking skate park" and he prefers it to the unused, vacant space that's there now.
He questioned whether a squeaky-clean skating venue in an area typically crowded with tourists would draw skaters from their current haunts like Burnham Skate Park in Bronzeville.
"Skating used to be all about invasion in places that aren't welcoming ... so for us 40-year-olds that grew up with it, who needs a skate park like this?" Nagelberg said.
But as a nearby resident and community member, Nagelberg said he can set aside his feelings that the "too clean" venue is a "sellout."
Generally speaking, "I think it's a great idea," he said. "If everyone can get on board, with skates, with bikes whatever. ... It would be awesome if a mom and dad that had Minor Threat tattoos were sitting down, and they've got a kid, and the kid wants to look at some skateboarding — that'd be great."
The new design fits the budget, comprised of $1 million in guaranteed TIF funding and an additional $1.5 million Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed to fight for in City Council.
But O'Neill said he hopes to continue lobbying Lollapalooza for additional donations to stretch the budget to include sculptures and higher-end surfaces for the park's infrastructure. Lollapalooza's organizers donate money after to the downtown festival each year to fund repairs and improvements to the park.
"In terms of the sculpture work, we are reaching out to wheelers who are also artists," O'Neill said. In the new renderings, silver geometric pieces stand in for the artwork O'Neill hopes to commission with additional funding.
O'Neill said he hopes to partner with an artist whose work could be "skateable."
Dennis McClendon, vice president of development and planning for South Loop Neighbors, said the site would benefit from more seating consideration, and possibly vending options.
"It's nice for this corner to finally be landscaped, but it also needs to be activated," McClendon said.
The redesign was presented at a public Grant Park Conservancy and Advisory Council meeting Tuesday at the Northerly Island field house.