THREATENED: Engineering Study Confirms Promontory Point Limestone Needs Repair, Not Replacement (Chicago 7 2022)

Promontory Point, 1937, Alfred Caldwell, Chicago Lakefront between 54th and 56th Streets. Photo credit: Eric Allix Rogers
Promontory Point, 1937, Alfred Caldwell, Chicago Lakefront between 54th and 56th Streets. Photo credit: Eric Allix Rogers

“For years, members of the Promontory Park Conservancy have been locked in a battle with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the fate of the Point’s historic limestone stair-step revetment on Lake Michigan.

“The Corps has claimed the existing structures no longer protect against storms, flooding and erosion, and need to be replaced, much like the Corps has done elsewhere along the shoreline, pulling out limestone and swapping in a concrete bulwark.

“The conservancy — a community nonprofit originally formed as Save the Point — has countered that the limestone works just fine and is simply in need of repair.

“Now the conservancy says it has the proof to back up its argument.

“On Thursday, the Promontory Park Conservancy released the results of an independent condition study it commissioned from McLaren Engineering Group. McLaren had its engineer-divers inspect the Point from above and below and concluded that the limestone blocks currently in place along the Point’s shoreline are structurally sound, function as intended, aren’t in danger of collapse and provide critical shoreline protection for the inland park and south lakefront.

“‘It is McLaren’s professional assessment that … with maintenance and repairs, the service life of the structure can be significantly extended, obviating the need for major demolition and replacement,’ the study said.

“‘We hired them to tell the truth,’ said Debra Hammond, the conservancy’s treasurer.

“At a news conference held Thursday morning, elected officials and preservationists alike — many of whom have a deep connection to the Point — called on the city and Army Corps to go on the record and commit to a shoreline protection plan that retains the historic limestone.

“Neither the Park District nor the Army Corps immediately responded to a request for comment from WTTW News. But the Chicago Department of Transportation did send a statement to Ald. Desmon Yancy (5th Ward) in advance of the news conference; he read the statement aloud to the gathered crowd of community members.

“That statement from CDOT said, in part: ‘There is no intention of replacing the limestone with a continuous concrete revetment. … We look forward to working closely with the community, elected officials and other stakeholders on the developing a rehabilitation plan that preserves the limestone and historic character of this beloved segment of shoreline for future generations.’

“‘So they said it. They said it,’ Yancy said, to cheers and applause from the audience. “I’m really glad that we’re hearing this. However, … let’s make sure this process is transparent because there are reports that have been done over the last couple of years that say otherwise, other than what is in this statement today.’

“In 2023, supporters of the Point pushed for and received Chicago landmark status, not just for the revetment but the upland park, too. Many assumed the war had been won, with a landmark seal providing rock-solid protection.

“Not so, said Spicer.

“The landmark ordinance allows for the demolition of a landmark if it’s been deemed unsafe or structurally failing, and that’s a loophole “big enough to drive concrete trucks through,” Spicer said.

“‘We have a legitimate study that will save public funds, that will protect the shoreline, that will maintain access and that will protect a treasured Chicago landmark,’ Kilgore said. ‘It is time to stop having to protect the Point from misguided plans and starting the work of preserving it.” (Wetli, WTTW Chicago, 4/4/24)

“‘It’s a Chicago treasure,’ says Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, who grew up wading in the lake, jumping on the limestone, and lounging in the sun with his dog. ‘It’s one of the last vestiges of stonework and easy access into the water. I think it’s kind of legendary.’ (Lane, Chicago Reader, 3/20/24)

Read the full story at WTTW Chicago and the Chicago Reader



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