Plans outline the future of the old Meigs Field

Northerly Island would get a new life as an urban and natural oasis

December 2, 2010

By Lynette Kalsnes

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Northerly Island would gain new landscaping, venues, under the plan.

The Chicago Park District will unveil long-term plans for Northerly Island tonight.

The park was once the home of Meigs Field. But someday, planners hope it will feature a concert venue with a green roof, wetlands, a chain of reefs and a lagoon for kayaking and canoeing. There may even be a sunken ship for divers to explore.

"It's tremendous," said Gia Biagi, the park district's director of planning and development. "It's an incredible 90 acres of lakefront parkland right at the central business district in a major metropolitan city. You can hardly find another grand opportunity like this anywhere in the world."

Biagi says the plan would balance the city's urban skyline with a natural environment for bird watching and contemplation. It would shift from the concert venue and skyline to the north, to areas for birdwatching to the east. It would include several different habitats, such as a beach, the lagoon and forest.

She says the city will seek out public-private partnerships and grant money.

The head of the Grant Park Conservancy, Bob O'Neill, said the plan would create a rich educational and natural space. He says it would greatly increase access to the lake. Now, park-goers can reach the water at the beach, but much of Northerly Island has an urban edge. O'Neill said the proposal would soften those edges and better integrate water and land.

The plan would be completed in pieces over the next 20 to 30 years as money and partnerships arise. Each project would need approval.

It took several years to complete this framework of ideas. It was drafted by the landscape architecture firm, JJR, and Studio Gang Architects, the firm that designed the Aqua Tower.

The public can view it at 6:30 tonight at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 S. Michigan Ave.