On Tuesday night, park district planners and its contractors shopped four different concepts for a future iteration of Northerly, culling feedback from hundreds of residents in a three-hour session downtown.Since our neighborhood is the closest to the land (and yes we consider this in the Sloop) we're very interested to see how, when and if any of this actually happens. We reference New York a lot on this blog, because we're a big fan of their public spaces (especially Central Park). We love the beauty of Grant Park and Millenium Park, but they feel a little overly manicured in our opinion (which is also the case for some places within central park). However, in Central Park there are many places where you feel like you're in a natural park and don't feel like you're in a bustling city.
The additions contemplated in the designs range from the natural (like dunes, berms, trees; one idea calls for a river running through the island. In another, there are a series of new barrier islands in Lake Michigan) to the athletic (beaches, a canoe and kayaking course) to the cultural (a Great Lakes research institute, an amphitheater, a nature center).
Jeanne Gang, principal at Studio Gang Architects, one of the firms working on the designs, said a video message played at the beginning of the night that past input about Northerly indicated a preference for a natural space that wasn’t thronging all the time.
“People wanted to see this as this ecologically rich and diverse space — not a Millennium Park that’s super busy all throughout it,” Gang said. “Because it’s so close to the water and further away from the city, it’s a place where you can actually find some solitude.”
From reading some of the coverage on the plans for Northerly Island, it sounds like the island could evolve into something similar to central parks 'natural' areas. This would be great! Although the current 'natural' space on Northerly Island is serene, it's nothing special and actually a little boring in our opinion. The concept pictured below would make this area interesting and somewhere we would like to go to explore.
The one major request we have is to provide some form of access to the island besides Solidarity drive (which is the street to get to the Planetarium). Every sketch we've seen addresses this problem, so it's obviously on the planners radar.
In terms of next steps for the planning of Northerly Island, the Tribune reports:
Tribune reporter Erika Slife reports that park district officials said they will analyze the feedback they got from the nearly 200 people who attended the meeting and will make another presentation to the public in 2010. Perhaps the Friends of Meigs Field, who boycotted the workshop, will attend next time around. For now, the idea of bringing back the airport is thankfully off the public policy agenda. This is one place where nature, not technology, should prevail.Also, as you might remember we had a post on Sloopin talking about another design for Northerly Island (as part of the Daniel Burnham 100th anniversary celebration: Big. Bold. Visionary. Chicago Considers the Next Century Exhibit). This idea, pictured below didn't purely picture the island as a natural oasis, but more of a functional and practical space that would serve as a place for a variety activities. This idea is much more conceptual, but wanted people to get a full sense of some of the ideas being floated around.
(Images from Chicago Journal and Chicago Tribune)