Past Event

The Chicago Children's Museum: Where Should It Be "Parked"?

The Chicago Children’s Museum announced in 2006 that it will be moving from its current site on Navy Pier to a new building in Grant Park at the south end of Daley Bicentennial Plaza. The plans for the museum have launched heated discussions around maintaining free access to Chicago’s parks and lakefront, respecting the wishes of local residents and aldermen about development in their communities, and providing a more easy to reach location for a museum that serves children from all over Chicago and around the country.

Two weeks ago, following long and emotional debates, the city Plan Commission approved the Museum’s move to Grant Park, a recommendation which will now be considered by the city council.

Opponents of the new Museum in Grant Park argue that it violates the Montgomery Ward court decision upholding the principle that Grant Park should be open to the public and remain free of buildings. Other opponents, who include Alderman Brendan Reilly and residents living near Grant Park, contend that the move ignores the will of local residents and the authority of aldermen who generally have a say on land use decisions in their wards. Others have criticized the planning process that led to the decision to locate the Museum in Grant Park, and many have suggested that the Museum should move to an underserved community where it would be closer to low-income families.

Supporters of the Museums’ move, including Mayor Daley, say that the latest design of the Museum would not violate the Ward court precedents because it would be below ground and covered with walkways, grass and trees. They also argue that the Grant Park site makes the Museum more available to children and families from around the city. Daley and other supporters have painted opponents of the new Museum as people who don’t want poor and minority children in Grant Park.

Is the proposed Grant Park site for the Chicago Children’s Museum a good idea? Is it more accessible to children and families? Or does it amount to appropriating public land for use by a private institution? How should we weigh the seemingly competing demands of a new site for the Museum, maintaining free and public access to Grant Park and the concerns and preferences of local residents and community leaders? How should the decision about a new location for the Chicago Children’s Museum, or any major cultural institution, be made?

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