Emanuel announces construction on Northerly Island to begin this fall

August 16, 2012

Quinn Ford

(Flickr/Sonny Cohen)
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin rehabbing the former site on Meigs Field this November.

The former site of Meigs Field will undergo an eco-facelift beginning this fall.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the overhaul of Northerly Island includes six different habitats on the north end of the island, including marshlands, a savannah and a pond system.

It’ll cost about $4.3 million. The city is kicking in $1.5 million, and city officials say that money is coming from revenues garnered by the Charter One Pavilion concert venue which will remain open on the island. The federal government is paying for the rest of the project.

Emanuel said the renovation is phase one of a larger project for the island, even though the city hasn’t yet secured funding for the entire project.

“The other parts of the project are very big and expansive. I made a decision we had to get started,” Emanuel said.

The final plans include things like a sunken ship for divers and a chain of mini-islands.

Emanuel said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin the project in November.

Lt. Col. Jim Schreiner is the deputy commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Chicago district. Schreiner said construction on the renovation project will take a little more than a year, but he added it will take another three or four years of maintenance for the project to really be completed.

“By the end of that fifth year, we would see the entire vision with a mature wetlands, the pond in place and ready to go, and the same goes for the wooded areas as well,” Schreiner said.

Emanuel says the project’s goal is to make a new urban camping hub for Chicago families and “at-risk youth.”

Chicago Park District Superintendent Michael Kelly said the city is planning new camping programs for the island. Kelly said one program will focus on inner-city children between the ages of 9 and 12 years-old and provide two weeks of activities like camping, sailing and fishing. He added the new programs will launch next year.