“Nearly 20 years after organizing against the city’s push to replace the decades-old limestone steps at Promontory Point with concrete, Hyde Parkers concerned about the latest plans for the park are ready to do it all over again if necessary.
“Members of the Promontory Point Conservancy, a nonprofit that grew from the Save the Point campaign of the early 2000s, are raising awareness about developments in a decades-long effort to reconstruct Chicago’s lakefront barrier walls.
“Promontory Point, which runs from 54th to 56th streets on the lakefront and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017, is one of two locations still unfinished under the Shoreline Protection Project. The project aims to better protect the lakefront against storms, flooding and erosion from Montrose Avenue to 79th Street.
“Documents obtained by the conservancy show the city saying its ‘preservation-based approach’ to renovating the Point would be similar to work completed at Diversey Harbor and other stretches where old limestone barriers were removed.
“We have reasons to believe they have a serious plan to replace the limestone revetment with concrete and steel,’ conservancy President Jack Spicer said. ‘We want people to know … it’s not necessary and it’s not desirable.’
“He wants residents to be clued in before officials secure funding, organize ‘some last-minute public meeting’ to announce their plans and ‘call that community participation.’
“There’s a looming sense of deja vu for Promontory Point Conservancy members and their supporters, who have seen the city push to replace lakefront limestone with concrete since the ’90s. The city’s recent assertion that its Diversey Harbor work preserved the limestone is a ‘disturbing’ sign for the Point’s future, Hyde Park resident Michael Scott said.
“Officials assured residents 20 years ago they would ‘reuse blocks as appropriate to maintain the limestone character’ as they built the concrete barriers, Scott said — ‘blah blah blah, it was total nonsense.’ The city’s vague statements allow officials ‘to remind you there used to be limestone here once’ — by saving a few stones for aesthetic purposes — and ‘call that preserving of the limestone,’ he said. Scott urged the city to instead adopt ‘what we agreed upon 15 years ago:’ a third-party review to determine the feasibility of restoring the limestone.
“The National Register of Historic Places listing is perhaps the Save the Point campaign’s most high-profile victory. But in the mid-2000s, supporters also secured plans — backed by then-Sen. Barack Obama — to prepare an alternative to the city’s concrete proposal.
“That alternative was to maximize the use of limestone, minimize concrete and ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, conservancy members said. It has yet to be funded 15 years later.
“A community-funded engineering study in 2004 found rehabilitating the limestone would be cheaper than demolishing it and replacing it with concrete, said Debra Hammond, a conservancy board member and Spicer’s wife. ‘The Point is almost 100 years old, and it’s going to take a lot more than [recent storms] to wear that limestone down’ to where it needs to be removed entirely, Hammond said.
“The Point’s limestone needs to be preserved and rehabilitated, but it ‘is doing its job’ serving as a barrier between the lake and Hyde Park, Spicer said.
“Promontory Point is a unique spot, drawing visitors ‘from all over the South Side and all over the city because it has this gorgeous, limestone, community-building aura,’ Scott said.
“‘If somebody wants to know the difference between what it’s like to be at the Point and what it’s like to be on the concrete alternative … go out there on any day and count how many people are voting with their feet, versus the stuff north of it,’ he said.
“The Point ‘is why I live in Hyde Park,’ Scott said. ‘This is one of the best things about the Chicago lakefront.'” (Evans, Block Club Chicago, 7/19/21)
Read the full story at Block Club Chicago
Promontory Point’s Limestone Should Be Fixed — Not Replaced, Locals Say As Battle To Preserve Beloved Peninsula Begins Again; Though officials intend to “save and reuse as much of the existing limestone as feasible,” neighbors are concerned the city’s efforts to stop lakefront erosion threaten Promontory Point’s decades-old design, Maxwell Evans, Block Club Chicago, 7/19/21
Army Corps poised to begin new Promontory Point planning process in October, Marc Monaghan, Hyde Park Herald, 7/19/21
Learn more and get involved at the Promontory Point Conservancy at www.promontorypoint.org