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Breakwater Chicago 'Party' Barge Not a Good Fit for Downtown: Ald. Reilly

 An artist's rendering of Beau D'Arcy's proposed Breakwater Chicago entertainment barge.
An artist's rendering of Beau D'Arcy's proposed Breakwater Chicago entertainment barge.
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Breakwater Chicago LLC

DOWNTOWN — Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) has come against plans to launch a football field-sized floating entertainment barge with stores, bars and restaurants off the coast of Downtown.

In a letter sent to constituents the weekend, the Downtown alderman said he opposes plans to dock the 300-by-100 foot "Breakwater" barge a mile off the Lakefront near Navy Pier, a message he delivered to developers when he met with them last year.

"According to ownership, the vessel would have the capacity to hold 1,000 [to] 2,0000 people and would include outdoor party decks, swimming pools, and several taverns serving alcohol to patrons," as well as "DJs, live music, parties and special events," read the announcement in the "Reilly Reports" newsletter.

"The alderman questions the wisdom of offering boaters an 'entertainment venue' in Lake Michigan where they can consume alcoholic beverages in a party atmosphere while operating watercraft," the announcement read.

"Typically boating and alcohol do not make a good mix."

The Breakwater Chicago, led by entrepreneur Beau D'Arcy, has proposed anchoring the barge 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.

Developers are hoping to raise the estimated $23 million budget needed for the with a combination of private investments and crowdfunding appeals on Kickstarter and Seed Chicago.

With 22 days remaining, the Kickstarter appeal has already exceeded its $30,000 goal by nearly $10,000, with support from more than 420 backers.

City, state and federal approval for various aspects of the project would be necessary, including backing by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Reilly also objected to potential "quality-of-life concern[s]" for lakefront residents.

"Unfortunately, sound carries extremely well over bodies of water," Reilly's office warned in the community newsletter.

The alderman doesn't oppose locating the barge near another neighborhood, his office said, but the statement concluded that "some proposals are not always a good fit for the residential and mixed-use density in the downtown core."

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