Childish Planning

From the Metropolitan Planning Council –

May 9, 2008

Chicago Plan Commission
Chicago Department of Planning and Development
121 N. LaSalle Street, #501
Chicago, Illinois 60602

Dear Members of the Chicago Plan Commission:

The Metropolitan Planning Council believes that in the case of the proposal to
relocate the Chicago Children’s Museum from Navy Pier to Grant Park, process
matters. The lack of a publicly coordinated process to evaluate the best use of
this unique parcel in the Northeast corner of Grant Park and the
best home for the Chicago Children’s Museum has led proponents and opponents to form their opinions and made them unwilling to budget. But the choices aren’t that clear
cut; there are pros and cons on both sides. The absence of a public planning
process, similar to what occurred prior to the creation of the Museum Campus
and Millennium Park, makes it extremely difficult to discuss those differences in
a rational manner.

Chicago Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) maintains the proposal is in clear
violation of Illinois Supreme Court rulings (the Montgomery Ward decision)
barring buildings in Grant Park and is therefore illegal. Attorneys for the
Museum claim their proposal does not violate long standing legal precedent and
adheres to the court’s rulings. We do not wish for this matter to be settled in
court, for it is not a purely legal debate.

The Children’s Museum maintains that this site is the only one considered that
satisfied their four criteria for relocation from Navy Piere (central location, access
to public transportation, access to green space, ample covered parking).
Alderman Reilly, the Chicago Tribune and others have offered numerous other
sites which have been dismissed by the Museum for not meeting their criteria.
Once again, the process by which the Museum evaluated other locations and the
lack of public information on their deliberations leaves a cloud of doubt in the air
as to whether this is the best use of this site and whether this is the best home for
the Museum.

The Metropolitan Planning Council has raised a number of questions that can’t
be adequately answered now, even as the Museum has settled upon this one and
only alternative.

* What assurance does the public have that if the Children’s Museum is
allowed to build underground in Grant Park that numerous other worthy
institutions won’t follow? What impact would this have on the A.
Montgomery Ward decision?

* Given that activating and programming other parts of Grant Park is a
goal of the Grant Park Framework Plan, why is the Children’s Museum
being presented as the one and only solution to this goal? Why wans’t
there a process to consider all options?

* What is the opportunity cost (impacts on other capital projects) for
pursuing this proposal over others in the Central Area Plan? Will scarce
infrastructure resources be diverted from other recommendations already
agreed to by a consensus driven planning process?

* Has there been adquate analysis of the option of staying on Navy Pier
and expanding there? The Children’s Museum is a great complement to
the family oriented activities the Pier strives to offer and creates great
public benefit to that public facility. It is in the public’s interest to
pursue possible scenarios for redeveloping the Pier before considering
relocation.

This city and region have a proud tradition of creative planning and bold
implementation. We deserve better than being presented with a proposal to
relocate the Chicago Children’s Museum to Grant Park as a fait accompli without
the benefit of a thoughtful planning process which would have added clarity and
provided answers to many of the issues circling this controversial proposal. In the
absence of those answers and a public planning process, we cannot support this
plan.

Sincerely,

Mary Sue Barrett
President
MPC Board of Governors

Lee Mitchell
Thoma Cressey Bravo, Inc.
Chair, MPC Board of Governors

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