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Chicago Symphony Orchestra Could Open 'Route 66 Museum' at New Loop Park

 Two renderings with possible design plans for the proposed Chicago Symphony Orchestra Park at Adams Street and Wabash Avenue
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Park
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THE LOOP — An underused lot at Adams Street and Wabash Avenue could be transformed into Chicago Symphony Orchestra Park, complete with a terrace with trees and other plantings, seating areas and a museum highlighting the park's place on the historic path of Route 66.

The site for the potential new "pocket park" is just west of the Chicago Symphony Center building on land owned by the CSO. It sits next to Tesori restaurant at 65 E. Adams St., which opened in the former Rhapsody location in 2012.

The CSO and Chicago Department of Transportation partnered with the Grant Park Conservancy to develop the project, which has tapped landscape architect Ernest Wong to design the new park, according to Bob O'Neill, president of the park group.

Lizzie Schiffman says the park's proposed location has historical significance:

Vanessa Moss, the symphony's vice president for orchestra and building operations, laid out a few of the plans for the park at a Chicago Loop Alliance meeting late last week, where officials discussed plans to revitalize Wabash Avenue. Officials emphasized Monday that the park is still in the early planning stages.

"Why not take this plaza and make it something that's interesting, activated and green?" O'Neill said. "It has everything it needs to make a plaza a successful outdoor space, including a great institution — the CSO — to program it."

O'Neill said the park has been underused "because it's infested with rats," but said that after the renovation it would make an excellent site for an outdoor cafe.

Moss said Friday the CSO could partner with Blue Plate catering to "enhance dining options there and create a really nice oasis for people in the city, and help bring more traffic to the CSO" but did not comment about any plans to operate a cafe or extend Tesori seating to the outdoor plaza.

Moss did say the plaza would likely include a "Route 66 museum" that will explain the site's historical significance. In 1926, Route 66 started down the street at Michigan Avenue and Adams Street.

Officials didn’t elaborate on what they had planned for the museum, but renderings did not appear to show a museum building on the site. O'Neill said the plan called more for Route 66-themed informational panels, programming and memorabilia available in the symphony's nearby gift shop.

"Believe it or not, there are a lot of international tourists that congregate on Adams Street," where a sign marks the beginning of Route 66, O'Neill said. "The idea is to get them into a plaza with a 'Route 66' scene to get them off the sidewalk."

The CSO is raising money for the park project, and is $50,000-$60,000 shy of its goal, Moss said.

Bob O'Neill said early estimates set the total cost for the project around $500,000.

If money can be raised on schedule, the CSO hopes to start construction in the early spring and open the park by summer 2015, Moss said.

More details weren't immediately available, and CSO officials emphasized the plan was still in flux.

“Because this project is still in a very early planning stage, it is premature to discuss details," spokeswoman Celeste Wroblewski said in an email Monday. "The CSO will share news if the project begins to take shape and as soon as we are able.”

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