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PNC Pop-up Bank Doesn't Belong in Grant Park, Neighbors Say

 A PNC pop-up bank in Grant Park has drawn the ire of some residents who think parks should only be used recreationally.
A PNC pop-up bank in Grant Park has drawn the ire of some residents who think parks should only be used recreationally.
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DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer

THE LOOP — Some Downtown residents hoped to bid the PNC pop-up bank in Grant Park good riddance at the end of the month, but the bank says it's so pleased with its reception that it plans to extend its stay in the park.

The bank was originally set to stay on the western edge of Grant Park on Michigan near East Congress Plaza Drive until this week and then move to North Avenue Beach.

But a PNC spokesman said late last week the bank will instead extend its stay until a yet-to-be-determined date later in the summer before moving to Charlotte in the fall. The 160-square-foot "branch" has been open since mid-May.

Lizzie Schiffman discusses the bank's potential move, but why no matter where it ends up, locals won't be happy:

Cassandra Francis, president of Friends of the Parks, said her group is opposed to the structure after it received five to 10 calls with complaints.

"One of the complaints was that it's, quote, 'Just wrong,' " said Francis, whose group opposes structures being put on park land.

Jacqueline WayneGuite, 30, who works across the street from Grant Park and eats lunch there two to three times a week, doesn't understand why the bank was allowed to be in the city's premiere public park. She said she is "annoyed" at how often the bank's staff tries to talk to her about the bank's services.

"It seems to go against the nature of the park itself," WayneGuite said.

PNC's presence also troubled Brandon Ross, 36, of Logan Square. He said the pop-up bank isn't "necessarily ... an eyesore," but he thinks there's "plenty of commercial property" for the bank to use in Chicago.

"I rather there not be banks in the park," Ross said.

The bank also came up at a recent meeting of the Grant Park Conservancy, where condo tenants who live near the park called the two-room kiosk an eyesore.

Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a Chicago Park District spokeswoman, said the structure is legal, and that many people support bringing in more money for the parks through alternative means.

One of the many ways the Park District raises money for its parks and program is via "our concessionaire, permit and rental opportunities. The PNC display is temporary, and was made possible through a promotions-level special event permit," Maxey-Faulkner said.

She said the park has only received "two formal complaints" about its measures to raise money.

"We have largely received positive feedback on our efforts to maximize non-tax revenues," she said.

Bob O'Neill, president of the conservancy, said the temporary deal with PNC was worthwhile for the revenue it provided.

"It's a pop-up ATM structure that's moving," O'Neill said. "It is there, it was put there by the Park District, and it's bringing in $120,000 in revenue. It's not a permanent branch."

O'Neill said the money would help fund the replacement of grass and trees at the old skate park in South Grant Park, which is being removed and replaced by a new skate park coming to the southwest corner of Grant Park this winter.

The PNC spokesman said the bank has received positive feedback from clients, and keeping the pop-up in one spot "facilitates logistics," leading to the pop-up's lengthened stay in Grant Park.

"The majority of Chicago residents support the city efforts to increase 'non-tax' revenue. Rental income from the Chicago Park District facilities represent that type of income," the spokesman said.

Still, the benefits come with risks, Francis said.

"We understand it's a potential service to park patrons, but it is a slippery slope, particularly when it's along the lakefront or in Grant Park," Francis said.

Francis said Friends of the Parks will work with the city to "delineate design guidelines for concessions" to help answer what sort of advertising and sponsorship is appropriate in the parks so it doesn't "impact aesthetics, impact enjoyment of the park."

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