DOWNTOWN — Entrepreneurs are trying to develop a glitzy entertainment barge the size of a football field that would include a pool, stores and restaurants — and would spend the summer anchored a mile out in Lake Michigan and winter docked inside a heated dome.
"We have the support of Seed Chicago," D'Arcy said later Tuesday at a news conference at the Hotel Allegro Downtown, citing the city's curated Kickstarter page developed a year ago to aid small-business startups.
The project would create a 300-by-100-foot floating entertainment center that would also include a party space and a spa at the estimated cost of $23 million. But developers are seeking other private investment and set their sights low on Kickstarter in search of $30,000 within a month to pay for a three-dimensional video to promote the project. They're also looking to fund a $30,000 scale model.
And they appear to be well on their way to getting those startup projects afloat. The funding appeal was posted Tuesday morning, and by midafternoon it already had more than 150 backers who had pledged $18,000.
"My mission for Breakwater Chicago is to create an entertainment destination that's unique to Chicago," said D'Arcy, president and chief executive officer of the firm. "It will become an international attraction, bringing visitors to experience our world-class city in an unprecedented way. While I'm proud that this vessel will be luxurious, it will also be family-friendly, exceptionally safe and environmentally conscious."
D'Arcy, a Naperville native with a master's degree from the Harvard Business School, said he's an avid Chicago sailor. The city's "huge boating community," however, had no place really to go, he added. He was inspired by Catalina Island off the Los Angeles coast and said he meant to "replicate that" in Lake Michigan.
Developers proposed it would be anchored about a mile offshore from Erie Street and Lake Shore Drive, just inside the Lake Michigan breakwater. It would remain in operation in winter, docked at a lakefront location yet to be determined and housed inside a heated dome that D'Arcy said would create a "greenhouse effect" inside.
In warm months, it will be accessible by water taxi and by boat, with 30 spaces to dock. D'Arcy estimated an average guest rate of $20 a visit, including water taxi, higher on weekends. Developers hope to have it in the water by the middle of next year.
City, state and federal approval for various aspects of the project would be necessary, including backing by the U.S. Coast Guard.
"We need a lot of permits," D'Arcy allowed, but insisted the project would create 200 full-time and 200 part-time jobs and 1,500 ancillary jobs, boasting that it could potentially have a $100 million impact on the local economy and aid Mayor Rahm Emanuel's stated goal to attract 55 million tourists a year.
"All ships rise with the tide," D'Arcy said.
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