In 2008, the Chicago City Council approved a controversial measure to move the city's Children's Museum from its current home in Navy Pier to a mostly underground two-story location within the bounds of Grant Park. That plan is now mired in litigation, as residents near the park contend that it violates centuries-old agreements about land use.
The battle might all be for naught, though, as museum leaders announced Tuesday that they might be staying put in Navy Pier after all.
"In response to a formal request by the new leadership of Navy Pier, Chicago Children's Museum has agreed to discuss whether the plans for a revitalized Navy Pier could support our goals for a new museum," museum president and CEO Jennifer Farrington said in a statement, as ABC-7 reports.
Crain's Chicago Business helps explain the reasons for the change of heart. Starting on July 1 of this year, Navy Pier will be run by a new non-profit, Navy Pier, Inc., though it will remain under the ownership of Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, colloquially known as McPier.
Navy Pier, Inc. has plans to revitalize the site, mulling projects like a large new concert venue, a luxury hotel, and an indoor skating rink. And Jim Reilly, the trustee in charge of an overhaul at McPier, sees the museum as an important anchor of the family-based entertainment on the site, according to the Chicago Tribune. A "vibrant children's venue is considered a crucial component of any plans" for the Pier, the Trib writes.
Legal opposition to the museum's move to Grant Park stemmed from the park's founding, when it was designated "public ground forever to remain vacant of buildings." That edict has been backed up by state Supreme Court decisions over the last 175 years, including a notable one in 1911 that blocked ambitious development of civic buildings in the park planned by Daniel Burnham.
But WBEZ's Justin Kaufmann is a bit more cynical about the objections. "Translation: You win, rich people who didn't want buses lined up next to your sleepy condos," he writes, referring to frequent complaints about the increased traffic that would come through the area.
The decision to stay in Navy Pier isn't final, but Tuesday's statement certainly makes the prospect much more likely than it seemed to be just days ago.