Navy Pier being leased to new non-profit

January 5, 2011

The agency that runs Chicago's Navy Pier announced Wednesday that the popular tourist attraction is getting some new management.

A newly-formed non-profit will take control of the Pier on July 1, with an eye toward making it even more family-friendly. Since 1989, Navy Pier has been run by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, commonly known as McPier. The agency, whose board is appointed by the state and by Chicago's mayor, also runs the McCormick Place convention center.

In a written statement, McPier trustee Jim Reilly said that Navy Pier is "past due for a major revitalization" that can be best spearheaded by a separate governing body."The businesses and purposes of [Navy Pier and McCormick Place] are very different," Reilly said. "In tight, budgetary times, Navy Pier, as the junior partner, will often not receive its due."

The new non-profit will be headed by transitional chair Sara Nava Garvey, who also heads the board of the Shedd Aquarium. She said a new tack for Navy Pier could mean a step away from the Pier's convention business.

"The convention business has not been the lead here," she said. "That's what McCormick does ... But I think that's probably a fair thing to say: more of the entertainment, more of the family orientation."

The group's next task is to put together a plan for updating the Pier, which Garvey said could include remodeling, bringing in new attractions and lowering parking rates.

McPier will transfer management of Navy Pier to the non-profit via a long-term lease.  Details haven't been worked out, but the lease wouldn't require a payment from the non-profit, and could be for a term of about 15 years, said Reilly.

The non-profit will be headed by a 13-member board that comprises a who's who of political insiders and Chicago business leaders, including Nora Daley, daughter of Mayor Richard M. Daley; Terry Peterson, a former Daley campaign manager; and Kurt Summers, Jr., chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. They'll have control of the Pier's operations, though big construction projects will still have to be approved by McPier.

Though the non-profit won't have to pay any money in rent or leasing costs to McPier, the Authority could provide up to $50 million to help with capital projects at Navy Pier, Reilly said.

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