EDGEWATER — For years, the Edgewater Beachwalk Chicago group has crafted its vision of a futuristic bike path and promenade along the community's beaches, and for a fleeting moment it seemed they may have had their inadvertent moment in the sun.
In early June, the Sun-Times reported Mayor Rahm Emanuel said if Friends of the Parks dropped its lawsuit against George Lucas' planned narrative arts museum, he would see to it a long-term Friends of the Parks project, known as the "Last 4 Miles," came to fruition.
That proposal sought to fill in in four miles of lakefront trails along Lake Michigan — including in Edgewater — but like the museum, it fell through when Lucas walked away from the ongoing tug-of-war between Emanuel and the parks group.
But Morry Matson, president of the Edgewater beach group, said Thursday if Lucas was "disappointed" about "walking away empty-handed" from Chicago's shores, he could make a $60 million investment to help bankroll Matson's lakefront project — effectively creating the "George Lucas and Mellody Hobson Memorial Parkway."
"We inadvertently became a bargaining chip in the tug-of-war between Chicago’s City Hall and Friends of the Parks," Matson wrote. "Our organization would like to offer a simple solution to the problem. In order to wipe away your sense of disappointment, we suggest that you adopt our humble and inexpensive proposed project as your own."
Matson told DNAinfo his private-public project is looking for donors who support sustainability projects across the Great Lakes, but thought he would reach out to Lucas since their proposals were, for a time, linked together.
He said no one from the mayor's office had contacted him, but he'd learned Edgewater and Rogers Park had been thrown into the mix through the Sun-Times story.
"I was surprised it had become part of the deal," Matson said.
A spokeswoman for Lucas said she would make sure the letter was seen.
Emanuel announced this week the city will repave 7 miles of the current lakefront trail beginning in Edgewater, a project which is currently underway.
Smith and Gill's rendering of the lakefront project looking north over Kathy Osterman and Thorndale Beaches in Edgewater. [Provided/Smith and Gill]
Edgewater Beachwalk's plans include extending the existing lakefront bike path that stops at Ardmore Avenue to Devon Avenue — effectively connecting many of the small beaches that populate the Edgewater and Rogers Park lakefronts to the rest of the city.
Renderings created by architects Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill, who are also behind the new $35 million stage at Navy Pier's Chicago Shakespeare Theater, show a connected path between Hollywood and Loyola paths.
Matson has presented those renderings to neighbors during community meetings while campaigning for other lakefront and historic projects.
Matson's plan would also make the lakefront more accessible for people who have disabilities.
"Now people in wheelchairs must use cramped city sidewalks and cross busy and dangerous city streets and are met with concrete barriers and chain link fences whenever they want to enjoy the lake between Ardmore and Devon," Matson said in May. "The [disabled] community expects and demands equal access to the lakefront."
An elevated bike path and promenade with benches, lighting, flowers and more are part of Edgewater Beachwalk Chicago's long term ideas to improve the lakefront in Edgewater. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Plans for an elevated promenade and bike path would also double the park space at Berger Park, create a new beach, boathouse and docking area, and a dog park at Thorndale Avenue.
Matson said he also envisions reinforced buttresses that alleviate flooding for high-rise residents, who generally use underground parking garages, as well as a new ComEd electrical grid for lakefront residents to replace one that was "fried" by high-tides in the '80s.
Read the full letter to Lucas below:
Dear George & Mellody:
We are sorry to hear of the sad fate of your lakefront museum in Chicago. Edgewater Beachwalk, the NFP community organization on the North Side campaigning for a public bike path and promenade along our lakefront, fully supported your proposed project. We inadvertently became a bargaining chip in the tug-of-war between Chicago’s City Hall and Friends of the Parks. If FOP had agreed to drop their lawsuit against your project, then the mayor would have included our proposed project with yours. Our moment in the sun proved to be fleeting. The deal fell through.
Our organization would like to offer a simple solution to the problem. In order to wipe away your sense of disappointment, we suggest that you adopt our humble and inexpensive proposed project as your own. 1900 registered voters have recorded their support for the new lakefront parkland. The conceptual renderings by Don Stark of Smith & Gill architects are truly inspiring. Chicago cycling, running, gay, disabled and black communities all support our proposed project with enthusiasm. I will wager that even a majority of the members of Friends of the Parks love the idea.
The “working title” (to use a cinematic term) for our small infrastructure project is Edgewater Beachwalk. With a sixty million dollar donation, it can easily be changed to George Lucas and Mellody Hobson Memorial Parkway. The majority of Chicago supports this plan, and you two would be heroes. The best way to describe our project is: “The force is strong in this one.”
Call me and let’s make a deal. The mayor will thank us for it.
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