Chicago Renames Iconic Road Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive

Lake Shore Drive
Evening commuter traffic moves smoothly on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago in this Jan. 30, 2012 photo. The road will be renamed after explorer Jean Baptiste Point DuSable. Kiichiro Sato / Associated Press
Lake Shore Drive
Evening commuter traffic moves smoothly on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago in this Jan. 30, 2012 photo. The road will be renamed after explorer Jean Baptiste Point DuSable. Kiichiro Sato / Associated Press

Chicago Renames Iconic Road Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive

Chicago’s iconic roadway along Lake Michigan will now be called Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

Chicago’s City Council approved on Friday the new name, which emerged as a compromise after a months long battle over whether or not to name the iconic thoroughfare after the Black man credited with founding the city.

Opponents of renaming Lake Shore Drive, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot, had worried that it would lead to a nightmare at the post office, with some buildings needing their address changed.

But Ald. David Moore, 17th Ward, sponsored the original ordinance and noted repeatedly that his proposal would only rename the outer portion of Lake Shore Drive, not the inner drive where people live. Ald. Brian Hopkins, 2nd Ward, who voted against the compromise, said there are at least six buildings that would require a name change.

The renaming vote ends one of the latest power struggles between members of the Council and Mayor Lori Lightfoot. But tensions had already spilled over into other matters before the Council, including the approval of a business package put forward by the mayor last month.

Lightfoot had proposed changing who gives the final sign off on some sign and sidewalk cafe permits as part of a sweeping package of reforms to city laws regulating businesses and workers.

But many aldermen saw that as an attempt to curb the unwritten practice of aldermanic prerogative, which Lightfoot vowed to end while on the campaign trail. When the so-called ChiBizStrong Ordinance came up for a vote Friday, Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward, used a rare parliamentary move to separate out the section of the ordinance dealing with sign permits.

“We want to get these businesses their signs and their outdoor cafes as soon as humanly possible,” Reilly said. “But to suggest that eliminating the legislative role in that approval will somehow speed the process? There’s another way to skin that cat.”

The move set off another strange showdown in City Council with testimony from aldermen on both sides of the argument. In a sprawling nearly 10 minutes speech, Ald. Michele Smith, 43rd Ward, implored her colleagues to question their motives.

“The notion that we have unbridled power to turn down a sign for any reason - or no reason at all — is bad,” Smith said. “I think you need to question the fear that is being shaken here against the reality of the situation.”

“There is not a commissioner today, nor ever, who will not listen to you,” Smith said. “If you are coming to them with a true concern, because you know, they want your vote at budget time.”

In a narrow 25 to 24 vote, aldermen succeeded in splitting out the section of the business package that deals with sign permits.

They unanimously approved the sweeping package and then deferred the sign permits section to next month.

The regulations they did pass include a midnight liquor store sales curfew, a version of which was implemented temporarily during the pandemic. Other changes that were approved through the package include capping fees that third-party food delivery apps can charge customers and restaurants, permanently allowing restaurants to offer cocktails-to-go, and protections for household workers who will now be included in the $15 minimum wage.

Aldermen Friday also approved Celia Meza as the first Hispanic woman to lead the city’s law department. Her confirmation was stalled Wednesday, when two aldermen requested to defer the vote. That led to parliamentary disorder and an abrupt end to the Council’s monthly meeting.

WBEZ’s Claudia Morell contributed.

Becky Vevea covers Chicago politics for WBEZ. Follow her @beckyvevea.