Thursday, April 16, 2009

Status Update: Pritzker Park

The large patch of fenced off grass on State Street that used to be an open-air toilet for vagrants is rapidly being turned into Pritzker Park.

Construction started back in the snowy (OK, "snowier") months and for a long time seemed to involve nothing more than moving all the dirt into a big pile.  These days, cement trucks are on the scene pouring the foundations for what will become seating areas and pathways.

The plan calls for concession stands in the park selling coffee and newspapers.  DePaul was at one time thinking of putting on free jazz concerts here.  There will be meaningful quotes carved into the back wall.

But don't get used to using the whole thing -- only the rectangle facing State Street is permanent.  The rest of it on Plymouth Court can be sold to a developer at any time.  Not surprisingly, some city officials are already drooling at the prospect of renting out the entire park to private interests, the way Millennium Park is sometimes closed to the public so that Allstate and Toyota can throw parties.

That little area really needs a park, and one that can smell the wifi from the Harold Washington Library Center would be ideal.  I only hope it's taken care of.

Between the DePaul kids across the street, the drifters used to sleeping on that turf, and various flavors of suburban "sk8rbois" who like to pretend the ultimate methods of expressing urban hipness are through skateboards and spraypaint, it just seems doomed.  If this park doesn't have full-time guard service like at Millennium Park , it might well be all for naught.

The park was designed by Doug Hoerr Landscape Architects.
Construction is paid for with TIF funds.


  1. Yeah, parks are dumb unless they come with full-time guards. WTF?

    How much damage can a person do to some trees and benches? I think a budget for maintence makes a lot more sense than a full-time guard service.

  2. Even a minor spray-painting "incident" can cost $10,000-$20,000 to clean up. Skateboarding damage is usually much higher, depending on the items damaged. Just a few incidents can easily deplete all the money from a park's maintenance budget.

    Suburban skater kids don't realize how much their pranks cost in terms of dollars because they're used to having everything handed to them and don't understand what things cost in the real world.

    If the city pays a service $100,000/year to keep an eye on the park, that's far cheaper than paying to fix vandalism caused by human garbage.

    A good example is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial down by the river at State and Wacker. THE DAY AFTER it opened, some piece of trash went down there and spray painted it. The guards aren't perfect, but they're an economical deterrent and a way to take a handful more people out of the unemployment line.

  3. Even if you can rationalize the use of a full-time security guard, I cannot stand the philosophy of the people don’t deserve something just because they will just ruin it. The park will get tons of use from people that appreciate it. I just can’t understand how it will "be all for naught” if it does not have full-time security service. Sure, full-time security service would be ideal for every park and every piece of public art, but it’s probably not possible. Don’t deprive me and the rest of the respectful citizens of this city of good things just because a few idiots MIGHT deface it.

  4. How does having someone watching out for vandals deprive anyone else of using the park for its legitimate purpose? Having a guard doesn't mean fencing it off.

  5. This park is being outfitted with all the best amenities that the city can offer for a park this size.

    Full-time guards are not necessary with a park of this size - this is where the community must come in if they want to keep vagrants out of their neighborhood.

    Chicago Loop Alliance is programming for this park - check the CPL or CLA websites for events. I know there is one this Tuesday, July 28th from 11a-2p and they are going to have some cold drinks available with some outdoor games.

    Speaking of drinks, JC Decuax (sp?) also has a temporary structure there selling drinks and snacks and will be making it into a permanent structure later this year.


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