Blocking the Chicago Children’s Museum from Building in Grant Park
On Tuesday, April 24th the City Council unanimously approved the ordinance Alderman Reilly sponsored to repeal the Chicago Children’s Museum controversial development “rights” in Grant Park. Many Chicagoans remember the very public debate between then Mayor Richard M. Daley and Alderman Reilly that started in 2007 regarding the legality of the City’s decision to allow buildings and development rights in Grant Park.
Mayor Daley aggressively supported the Chicago Children’s Museum plan to build a new 100,000 square-foot facility in Grant Park to replace their very popular Navy Pier location. Alderman Reilly remained strenuously opposed to approving any buildings in Grant Park based on 100 years of legal precedent and four separate Illinois Supreme Court rulings that each clearly determined the special covenants governing Grant Park must be honored by the City of Chicago.
Alderman Reilly formed his position on Grant Park by immersing himself in the history behind the long and tumultuous battle to protect the Park from buildings and obstructions. During that process, Alderman Reilly discovered four separate Illinois Supreme Court decisions that conferred special protections on Grant Park as public land.
Those four Supreme Court decisions, commonly referred to as the “Montgomery Ward decisions,” affirmed the original 1836 decree that clearly designated Grant Park as “Public Ground – a Common to Remain Forever Open, Clear and Free of any Buildings, or other Obstruction Whatever.”
Alderman Reilly dedicated this significant amount of time to studying the 176-year history behind Grant Park, because he knows that it is one of Chicago’s most precious resources. Many people may not be aware the Chicago Children’s Museum was not the first worthy organization to pursue a facility in Grant Park. Over the past 150 years, dozens of exciting projects were proposed to be built in Grant Park. However, if exceptions had been allowed for those proposals over the years, we would not have had this debate, because there would be no open space left to develop in Grant Park.
Alderman Reilly’s position on this issue had nothing to do with the merits of the Chicago Children’s Museum or the designs for their proposed facility. This debate was about the future of Grant Park and whether or not it would be prudent to abandon 176 years of history that has preserved this open space as a park for all residents of the City of Chicago. Alderman Reilly believed supporting the Children’s Museum in Grant Park would set dangerous precedent that would open wide the flood-gates for other entities to lobby for their own development sites on Grant Park.
Grant Park belongs to all residents of Chicago and, thanks to Aaron Montgomery Ward’s vigilance, Grant Park has remained protected open-space for 176 years and is one of our city’s most precious and popular public assets. There is only one Grant Park and it should remain forever open, clear and free for future generations – from every corner of Chicago – to enjoy for many years to come.
Although the debate over Grant Park grew contentious with an overwhelming majority of Chicagoans opposing the Plan to build in Grant Park, Alderman Reilly remained a strong supporter of the Children’s Museum’s mission and the good work they perform each day. Alderman Reilly tried to help the institution identify alternate locations that would have allowed the Museum to expand on a site they would control. Alderman Reilly also offered to work with the Museum and Navy Pier to facilitate an expansion at their current home because the Pier and the Museum have enjoyed a mutually beneficial synergistic relationship. Navy Pier is the number one tourist destination in Illinois and data proved that had a lot to do with the Chicago Children’s Museum being located at the front of Navy Pier.
The Chicago Children’s Museum signed a new lease with Navy Pier and completed expansion plans that have allowed the Museum to grow and flourish at its current home on Navy Pier – fantastic news for all!
We all have Aaron Montgomery Ward to thank for fighting to preserve the Grant Park our generation currently enjoys today. Alderman Reilly was inspired by the story of his fight to protect Grant Park and determined that it was his duty to honor his legacy and pay it forward to ensure future generations of Chicagoans enjoy Grant Park for many decades to come.
Alderman Reilly thanks the thousands of Chicagoans for their strong advocacy throughout this most recent chapter of the fight to protect Grant Park, with a special thanks to our passionate civic partners and allies at: Save Grant Park, Metropolitan Planning Council, Friends of the Parks, IVI-IPO, Friends of Downtown and the League of Women Voters and many, many others.
We should also recognize those in the Chicago media community who advocated for preserving Grant Park during this latest fight: the editorial pages of Crain’s Chicago Business and the Chicago Sun-Times and columnists John Kass, Rich Miller and others who joined the fray. Special recognition goes to the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, who published literally dozens of editorials against this ill-advised plan, offering potential alternatives for the Museum.
Finally, Alderman Reilly would like to personally thank the 17 courageous members of the City Council who stood with him in 2008 and voted against opening Grant Park to development. He would also like to thank the 30 aldermen who joined him in 2012 to co-sponsor the repeal of the Museum’s zoning approvals to build in Grant Park.
”"The lakefront by right belongs to the people. It affords their one great unobstructed view, stretching away to the horizon, where water and clouds seem to meet...not a foot of its shores should be appropriated by individuals to the exclusion of the people. On the contrary, everything possible should be done to enhance its natural beauties, thus fitting it for the part it has to play in the life of the whole city."Daniel Burnham1909
Honoring Chicago’s Heroes
Renaming Michigan Avenue Bridge in Honor of Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable
In 2009, the Chicago City Council approved Alderman Reilly’s legislation to rename the Michigan Avenue Bridge the “Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable Bridge,” to honor the first non-native settler of Chicago and our city’s founder.
Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable established the first settlement on the north branch of the Chicago River in 1773, at the current site of the Tribune Tower. He lived there with his wife and close to one hundred other Potawatomi. The settlement grew rapidly, and was soon distinguished for having racial, ethnic and cultural harmony and mutual respect among its diverse inhabitants.
The settlement founded by Du Sable was incorporated in 1833 as the Town of Chicago, and reincorporated as the City of Chicago in 1837. Du Sable was declared the Founder of Chicago on October 26th, 1968 by the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago.
Ida B. Wells Drive
Alderman Reilly and Alderman Sophia King (4th Ward) co-sponsored an ordinance which formally changed the name of a portion of Congress Parkway to “Ida B. Wells Drive.”
Alderman Reilly was proud to have co-sponsored this important measure with Alderman King to give Ida B. Wells the recognition she deserves. She was a courageous leader of the women’s suffrage movement and a tireless advocate for justice.
Ida B. Wells has an important place in Chicago’s history, and now has a prominent street in downtown Chicago to honor her memory.
Ida B. Wells was a crusading journalist who risked her life bringing light to lynching and the trumped up charges used to justify them. In fact, her work to expose these horrors was done at such a risk, she was forced to move to Chicago in 1893 to escape death threats against her. Upon arrival in Chicago, she worked to register women to vote, and she became a key leader in the suffrage movement.
Through Ida B. Wells’ leadership, in 1913 Illinois gave women the right to vote, several years before the passage of the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Wells was also a founding member of the NAACP.
This measure was supported by the League of Women Voters of Chicago, and over 50 notable local and statewide civic organizations.
Rejection of East Loop TIF District
In 2009, Alderman Brendan Reilly formally rejected a proposal to create a new downtown TIF District in the “East Loop” area of the Central Business District.
The proposed TIF district was advanced by a handful of commercial property owners with buildings located south of Wacker Drive and east of Michigan Avenue, bounded on the south by Randolph Street and Grant Park. That group commissioned and paid for a TIF eligibility study to try and convince Alderman Reilly and other city officials that their properties met the eligibility thresholds established by TIF statute.
Alderman Reilly believes that owner reinvestment and market forces should ultimately decide ‘winners’ and ‘losers,’ not TIF subsidies. The East Loop TIF proposal appeared aimed at providing a competitive advantage to those properties within the proposed TIF boundary at the expense of neighboring properties. The intent of TIF was never to place surrounding properties (directly outside of the district, of a similar age and class) at a leasing disadvantage. The East Loop TIF proposal would very likely have had exactly that effect.
Alderman Reilly explained that, of those properties owners who funded the study, all had already substantially reinvested in their respective properties. Reilly underscored a core principle that all property owners embrace: a property owner’s level of reinvestment ultimately determines the future viability of the property. At the time of the proposal, most buildings within the proposed TIF boundary as well as all proponents of the new TIF enjoyed building occupancy rates of 75% or more.
Alderman Reilly understands the potential benefits and power of TIF as an economic tool, and always applies a granular review to any proposal in order to proceed cautiously.
After discussing the proposal with the property owners who funded the study as well as owners who had no idea their property was even being considered for TIF designation, Reilly determined that it was in downtown Chicago’s best interest to allow market forces to drive decisions related to reinvestment and redevelopment in the East Loop area.
These same market forces have historically transformed areas of the downtown Central Business District and other parts of the city into the vibrant, thriving mixed-use districts and special purpose districts that have helped to make Chicago the world-class city it is today.
Alderman Reilly has always recognized TIF districts as very powerful and effective economic tools, when used responsibly and in the best interest of Chicago taxpayers. The Alderman values their function as an important public-private partnership that can spur local investment and promote continued economic growth. However, he does not agree that the needs within the proposed East Loop TIF boundary came even close to meeting the threshold level of obsolescence or deterioration the Illinois statute was designed to address.
Making Chicago a Bike Friendly City
Alderman Reilly works to promote and improve bicycle infrastructure in the 42nd Ward.
A strong supporter of bicycle initiatives, Alderman Reilly was recognized by the Mayor’s Bike Advisory Council (MBAC) when it passed a resolution recognizing and thanking Alderman Reilly for supporting bicycling infrastructure in the 42nd Ward. In 2010, Alderman Reilly allocated aldermanic menu funds to install 3 miles of new bike lanes and restripe 2 miles of existing bikeways in the 42nd Ward.
- Other notable cycling initiatives Alderman Reilly worked to secure in the 42nd Ward include:
- In the Fulton River District, the existing bike lane on Milwaukee Avenue between Lake and Fulton was reconfigured and re-striped. Milwaukee Avenue is the most traveled street by commuter cyclists with downtown destinations.
- Improvements were also made in Lake Shore East on Upper Randolph Street from Michigan Avenue to Field Boulevard. The existing bike lane for eastbound Randolph was improved for cyclists’ safety and a new bike lane was installed on westbound Randolph where previously, no bike lane existed.
- Additional bike lanes were also installed in River North and Streeterville on Illinois Street and Grand Avenue. These bike lanes run from the Lakefront Trail in the east to Orleans Street in the west. They are a substantial addition to cycling infrastructure of both the 42nd Ward and the City of Chicago, and marked the first “east/west” bike lane within the City limits connecting downtown Chicago to the Lakefront.
- Alderman Reilly considers these investments an important public benefit because bicycling is a convenient form of transportation, reduces dependence on automobiles and alleviates traffic congestion. To ensure these improvements were made, Alderman Reilly allocated funds out of his aldermanic menu as well as assigned TIF dollars where the lanes crossed TIF boundaries.
- Alderman Reilly was presented with a Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council Award. This award highlighted the Alderman’s commitment to improving bicycling infrastructure in the 42nd Ward and his contribution and support for the Kinzie Cycletrack.
Champion of Sustainable and Environmental Practices
Alderman Reilly is working on a downtown density bonus to promote greater sustainability for new development in the 42nd Ward.
In consultation with leaders in the environmental field, Alderman Reilly has compiled a menu of sustainable features from which a developer can choose in order to achieve greater density for their development. It is important to mention that density bonuses, when available, are not a guarantee but an option developers may pursue and only by decision of the city in conjunction with the alderman’s office (2012).
The menu of sustainable features includes but is not limited to: the inclusion of photovoltaic panels, allocation of parking spaces for car-sharing programs and/or electric vehicles, construction of electric vehicle car-charging stations, participation in Smart Grid development and the creation of new bicycle lanes proximate to the development.
When passed, this ordinance will also raise the bar on LEED ratings for new development downtown. Many items included in the bonus menu can also assist a developer in securing their LEED rating.
Alderman Reilly is the recipient of the Keep Chicago Beautiful Sustainability Vision Award as a tribute to the Alderman’s commitment to the greening of the City of Chicago through a variety of sustainability efforts.
Those efforts include green initiatives such as the creation of new open space, passing clean air/anti-idling legislation, facilitating electronics recycling downtown, requiring new 42nd Ward developments to reach a minimum of LEED Silver rating, improving access to car-sharing for residents and businesses in addition to bicycling initiatives to promote cycling ridership and safety.
By funding new bikes lanes throughout the 42nd Ward, Alderman Reilly has provided for greater connectivity to downtown, giving commuters a more environmentally friendly transportation option. Cycling reduces the number of cars on the street, alleviates traffic congestion and improves air quality.
Alderman Reilly secured approval for his Electric Vehicle Charging Ordinance (O2019-8025). This ordinance requires new construction of multi-unit residential buildings with on-site parking and five or more dwelling units, and commercial properties with 30 or more parking spaces to install electrical infrastructure to ensure at least 20% of the parking spaces are either “EV-Ready” or “EV-Installed.”
By requiring “EV-Ready” as the new minimum standard, this ordinance ensures these parking spaces are equipped with an electrical outlet and socket for slow-charge, traditional EV charging until EV charging stations are eventually installed to serve these spaces.
Retrofitting a parking space with Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) that will support an EV charging station is extremely expensive and time consuming. It is at least six times less expensive to install EV charging stations when parking spaces are “EV-Ready.”
EV sales are on the rise in the United States, and projections indicate that by 2040, 55% of new car sales will be EV’s. According to a recent survey, 16% of Americans have committed to purchasing an EV as their next vehicle. Alderman Reilly’s ordinance makes it easier to accommodate EV charging and will encourage people to purchase EV’s.
Since EV’s have notable benefits to the environment, including improving air quality, the Alderman’s ordinance helps the City of Chicago achieve its goal to reduce pollution that contributes to climate change and negatively impacts public health.
This is Alderman Reilly’s second Electric Vehicle Charging Ordinance (EVCO) approved by City Council. Alderman Reilly’s first EVCO (SO2019-6934) was passed on October 16, 2019, and required parking spaces to be “EV-Capable” – which does not require inclusion of a traditional electrical outlet and socket. Environmental and EV advocates supported the first ordinance, and agree that Alderman Reilly’s new EVCO marks a significant improvement over the first ordinance approved last October.
The Alderman led the charge to require new construction to install “EV-Ready” parking spaces based on market trends, the cost to install EVSE, and to combat the negative effects of global warming.
Alderman Reilly was proud to have partnered with Mayor Lightfoot to pass this important ordinance. As the cost of EV’s decline and concerns about climate change escalate, analysts forecast exponential growth in EV’s over the next two decades, and Chicago must be ready. Readiness starts by ensuring our municipal code anticipates the need for electrical charging resources that will optimize the performance our transportation network and minimize costs for electricity consumers, as EV’s proliferate.
Alderman Reilly is committed to spearheading environmentally friendly policies that promote the use of sustainable energy in Chicago.
- Advocate for Accountability and Greater Fiscal Health
Since 2007, Alderman Reilly has been advocating for the creation of an independent, professionally run office that provides comprehensive financial analysis and reports directly to members of the Chicago City Council (2013).
Alderman Reilly believed that, for far too long, the City Council has had to rely solely upon the Mayor’s Budget Office for any information related to proposed budgets, asset leases and major city contracts. As a result, it was very difficult for aldermen to fully analyze the Mayor’s budget proposals, consider the broader impacts of the decisions they are making and cast well-informed votes on these important city budgets.
The recently-approved Council Office of Financial Analysis (COFA) will be responsible for providing members of the Chicago City Council with an independent financial analysis of the Mayor’s proposed annual budget, potential cost saving measures and efficiencies, and a review of all proposed private-partnership agreements or asset leases. The Office will be an important resource to provide other analyses at the request of members of the Chicago City Council.
As former Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Budget and Government Operations, Alderman Reilly was a strong supporter of this ordinance because he knows it will help ensure a more intelligent, productive debate regarding the City of Chicago’s finances. The COFA will provide the City Council with critical insight regarding the Budget and initiatives like public/private partnerships or asset leases that directly impact the City’s bottom line.
Alderman Reilly believed that the creation of the COFA was long overdue and utilizes important independent analysis of major items to be considered by the City Council. Chicago became the fourth major U.S. city to establish an independent budget office to advise the City Council. The Office provides a valuable service to members of the City Council and helps benefit all Chicago taxpayers.
Alderman Reilly secured approval of an ordinance that requires the Council Office of Financial Analysis (COFA) to prepare a fiscal impact statement at least 72 hours before a City Council vote on any measure that would:
- Directly or indirectly expend any funds or increase or decrease the revenues of the City;
- Appropriate funds;
- Increase or decrease existing appropriations;
- Increase or decrease the fiscal liability of the City;
- Sell or lease any city asset, including revenue streams from that asset, if the anticipated revenue from the sale or lease of the asset is greater than $5,000,000.
Most states and many of the largest cities in America already require fiscal impact notes (or statements) to be prepared for pending legislation that could have a positive or negative impact on revenues, liabilities or the value of city / state assets.
Chicago taxpayers (and elected representatives) deserve more transparency about the cost of government. Lawmakers have a responsibility to their constituents to understand how much proposed program expansions; new initiatives or policies; or potential asset sales will cost taxpayers – before those proposals are approved or rejected.
The Chicago City Council was wise to create COFA. Alderman Reilly welcomed the opportunity to have an independent office – accountable to the City Council – to provide fiscal analysis and review of proposed appropriations or program expansions.
Unfortunately, COFA had not been empowered to play a regularly active role in preparing fiscal analysis for the City Council.
The “Fiscal Transparency Ordinance” ensures COFA is regularly engaged in fiscal analysis of new policy proposals brought forth by the Mayor’s Office or members of the City Council. This ensures that members of the City Council have a better understanding of the financial impact that policy proposals have on the City Budget.
Fiscal ignorance has been bliss at City Hall for far too long.
That’s one of the reasons our City has been struggling with the aftermath of bad privatization deals; costly program expansions; aggressive issuance of long-term debt; and year-over-year structural deficits.
Taxpayers and their elected representative deserve to know how much policy changes will cost – in the short-term and long-term. Alderman Reilly believes the Fiscal Transparency Ordinance goes a long way toward achieving that goal.