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Build DuSable Park Now, Groups Say

By David Matthews | September 3, 2015 8:41am
 A group of park enthusiasts spoke out Wednesday imploring city officials to build out DuSable Park, which was planned in 1987 but never built. 
DuSable Park
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STREETERVILLE — Advocates for DuSable Park gathered Downtown on Wednesday to affirm their stance that the park, named after Chicago's founder, should be more than just three acres of weeds.

Representatives of Friends of the Parks, the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents and the DuSable Heritage Foundation on Wednesday implored city officials to build DuSable Park, which Mayor Harold Washington announced in 1988 in honor of Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, a Haitian trader who was the first permanent settler here in the 18th century.

But to date, the parkland at 401 N. Lake Shore Drive has remained untouched while City Hall developed other Downtown attractions including Millennium and Maggie Daley parks. 

"They say, 'Yes, it's important,' but we'd like to see movement. Action, not words," said Serge J.C. Pierre-Louis, president of the DuSable Heritage Association.

The closest the park's site — which sits where Lake Michigan and the Chicago River meet — came to being built was nearly a decade ago, when the now-defunct 150-story Chicago Spire was still selling condominiums. City plans called for the Spire developer to build the lakefront park, but the developer fell victim to the recession and was ultimately forced to give up the property in bankruptcy court

DuSable Park as seen Wednesday. [DNAinfo/Dave Matthews]

The site is now owned by a new developer, Chicago-based Related Midwest, and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) told Streeterville neighbors in June that he wanted Related to build the park when it constructed its own, new project on the Spire site. 

"I’m as frustrated as anybody that we have this large pile of dirt adjacent to Lake Point Tower, and a $100 million hole in the ground that is now a swimming pool," Reilly said then. A Related Midwest spokeswoman declined to comment.

Dave Matthews explains why the park has been untouched:

While he's glad the city has a plan, Pierre-Louis doesn't want to count on another developer. 

"The last time they took that route, nothing happened," he said.

The group has set up an online petition with more than 100 signatures, and held its event Wednesday on the 197th anniversary of DuSable's death. The association was joined by other groups, including the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents.

"If you don't get any momentum behind [this], it'll get delayed even more," said Gail Spreen, the organization's president. 

They also were joined by officials from the Chicago Park District, who said the district secured unspecified funds from the Environmental Protection Agency for "environmental remediation," but nothing more.

"We would love to build" the park, said Bob Foster, a senior project manager at the park district. "It's just this little thing called funds."

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