Latest on Promontory Point restoration

(part of 2003>> series, #11)

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To Page index
Last news-impasse among officials and agencies continued and no progress was made
To Scope of Work for independent review process and 1993 Memorandum of Agreement

Recent information as of November 2014

January 2018- Point Listed on National Register- see report in Promontory Park Page or visit places/
Visit for information on the Conservancy.
Join the Conservancy and Hyde Park Historical Society June 16, 2019, 12:30 for picnic, 2 pm dedication of the plaque placed on (of course) a limestone block. By the Wallach fountain just east of the underpass.

To Point home-index to all Point pages including Prom. Pt. Park.
Parks home. Lakeshore Protection Project in general, Pebble Beach/Morgan Shoal section. Quality of Life Hot Topics.

To Website of the Prom. Pt. Community Task Force
Preservation Chicago website.
Queries to See viewpoints by HPKCC in the August-on Point page, latest being the Autumn 2005 Reporter. In #19: HPKCC December Letter (as to Park District Sup., replies).
See report from the HPKCC September 2006 Reporter.

See the 17-page professional review of the 6-year Community Task Force fundraising effort in

Materials in this page are as needed removed and archived in pages of the running series of pages covering the Promontory Point controversy from 2003 forward. (See Point home for navigation to all cached material including some back to 1999 and earlier and links to websites with more and to a full suite of contacts.)

The most recent material before that in this page is in now in no's. 17 through 20 of the 2003> series, covering late summer 2005 through mid 2006. These also have relevant sites and contact information. (No, not enough has happened for over three years to justify another archive section.)

Mid-2003-2006 Series: (for previous see Background Process/Plans in Point homepage.)

1: July 13 2003 Task Force Preservation and Access Plan text

2: Reports and text, views, links to view plans
3: City counter/compromise plan, reinstated January 04
4: September 10 public briefing and summary
5: Reports of the Mediator of the Working Group meetings and process disc/complaints

6: Reports and Appeals March-December 2003
7: Reports, Appeals, Press from Jan.-Feb. breakdown period, incl. Mediator's Statement
8: Point dispute-statements-coverage-Rossi letter late Feb./March 2004
9: The March 9 2004 summit and costing tasks to lead to final working group report due April 15
10: Listing on the '10 Most Endangered' list; disputes over plans and 1993 Memorandum and defenses of rival plans
11: Latest Promontory Point news [This page]
12: From the Mediator's Final Report May 2004

13: About and Reactions to the Mediator's Report
14: Reactions to the ad hoc group; during the period of its (non) meetings, June-August 2004, other actions including by Rep. Jackson, Ill. Hist. Pres. Agency
15: Late 2004, including Mediator's Final Report with a 3rd option
16: 2005 through June
17: Mid 2005: Jackson Amendment, IHPA-CPD, HPKCC and other letters of appeal
18: August-October 2005, incl. the "infamous" Sept. 15 2005 meeting; HPKCC and Sen. Obama positions
19: Late 2005-mid 2006 including dev. of Scope of Work review doc.

20: Scope of Work for The Preservation of Promontory Point (3rd party review guide)


Page index.
(Note: The "Scope of Work" (final document-August 14 2006) that will guide the design and which all the parties have now approved is in its own page, Scope of Work. Read in page 19 a preliminary sketch version sent out months before by Sen. Obama's Office.)


Meetings schedule

No Task Force or Community meetings are presently planned. Task Force meetings are open to the public and will generally be called when there are questions needing broader input. Contact: Jack Spicer, 773 324-5476.

Most recent news

October-Nov. 2015: Repairs filling potholes were undertaken. Maria Stone of CPD wrote in answer to a query--" The improvements at Promontory Point will be repairing sink holes around rocks at the shoreline." As to when major work may be contemplated was unknown to this writer. Such seems to be listed as coming after Morgan Shoals work.

The October 31 2014 "Halloween superstorm" led to increased attention and urgency to the Point and north as well as the 45th-51st stretch and stretches near La Rabida Hospital.
Documentation of increased failure at the joint between the north end of Promontory Point and the concrete steps done a few years ago and at the east end of the Point, and possible washout on the south side of the Point are being turned over to the Park District, and discussion of other documentation is being held on Neighborhood Talk- East Hyde Park.
After the October storm, various snow and other fencing were put up on the northwest side.

December 2012. The resignation of Jesse Jackson Jr. as 2nd District Congressmen and the huge field of potential successors has raised specualtion about need for a leader/negotiator officeholder dedicated to comuity and restorastion/improvement needs alike. (This series documents the role of Rep. Jackson and then-Sen. Obama in bringing the sides close until derailed by a fight ostensibly over what party pays for charettes etc. under the Corps of Engineers.) Officeholders contacted by the Herald were quoted as wanting to revive the effort for (as State Rep. Currie said) "consistent with the current configuration- but that won't disintegrate. Ald. Hairston is a key figure who agreed with Currie's postion , said the matter is at the top of her priorities and she will talk to whoever is Jackson's replacement.
There was general agreement among supporters of a preservation approach (or else that major repair is not needed) that Jackson was unique i takein their side and asking what he could do for them. Those who have led the task force see less urgency for work than the officials at least nominally express.
The Herald opined in its December 5 issue (by Andrew Holzman) that the Corps would likely hold that immediate work is not necessary and funding can be found for a solution different from their last proposal. Who would provide impetus and shepherding in Congress etc. was unclear.


The parties that would fund, oversee, or conduct a third party review, including Chicago Park District, last met in Rep. Jesse Jackson's office in the third week of March 2010 to find ways to "make this happen." Alderman Hairston gave an optimistic report on this at a parks councils conference March 27.

As of January 2010, according to an article in the Hyde Park Herald Jan. 20, there is still impasse over funding the "third party review" (feasibility charette and study to be hosted by the Buffalo division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), expected according to a 2007 parties agreement to cost $450,000. Rep. Jesse Jackson has again introduced federal legislation to fund the study in the Water Resources bill working its way through Congress, but says that this (and exception to policy of requiring a local match) will be difficult to get through without the support of the Chicago Park District (the "local entity") and the latter's agreement to fund half the study, as provided in the provision. The Park District has maintained it agreed to the study but not to provide and funding.

Rep. Jackson's spokesperson Ken Edmonds emailed the Herald: "Congressman Jackson is a strong advocate of preserving the historic and unique nature of Promontory Point. In 2007, he played a leading role in forging an agreement, allowing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an independent, third-party review and make a final determination about the cost of preserving the limestone revetment. Unfortunately, the Chicago Park District has refused ever since to provide the local matching funds for the study. But despite the impasse, Congressman Jackson is continuing to search for a creative solution to overcome th Park District's opposition and to proceed with the study."

Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th), according to Herald, wrote to Reps. Jackson and Rush, and Sens. Burris and Durbin, urging them to secure funding for the study so that the improvements to the revetment can move forward, adding in her letter to Jackson "Our constituents have been patiently waiting for a positive outcome. But their patience is waning. they are looking to their elected official to act on their behalf with persistence and vigor."

Hans Morsbach wrote in reply in the Herald that the Point is doing just fine and constiuents don't want it changed.

Or is all this between the politicians just puffery?


April 2009- Rep. Jackson to seek money for [feasibility charette study of preservation rehab] for Promontory Point

Herald, April 8, 2009. By Kate Hawley

A spokesman for Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2) confirmed last week that the congressman would be seeking funds for a third-party review of the revetment at Promontory Point during the current appropriations cycle. "We're doing our best to secure the funding," said Ken Edmonds, a spokesman for the congressman. Edmonds said there was no guarantee, but it is a top priority.

...[T]hen-senator Barack Obama and Jackson presented a provision calling for a review by the Army Corps of Engineers. Authorized in 2007, the $450,000 provision has remained unfunded partially due to congressional wrangling with then-President George W. Bush that delayed and complicated budgetary appropriations for months, according to Edmonds.

The review of "how to restore Promontory Point according to historical preservation standards" will be entirely funded by the federal government, according to Edmonds. Edmonds was optimistic the project would be funded, but acknowledged that securing the money could prove challenging. "It's difficult to secure funding for new projects," Edmonds said. "It's just a reality in a budget where there's this explosion of need and limited funds available."

Jackson will submit the request for funds to the Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, which is beginning to draft appropriations for fiscal year 2010, according to Edmonds. The funding package will likely be up for a congressional vote in the early fall, and the funds would be released at the beginning of the fiscal year in October, he said. If the congressman is not successful in this appropriations cycle, "we'll try again and try again," Edmonds said.

[Note: Rep. Jackson's ability to continue to seek this appropriations depends on the outcome of investigations in Congress relative to ex-Gov. Blagojevich and the Obama seat, and years beyond that to Congressional redistricting.
Also in the April 15 issue, the Herald urged Rep. Jackson to push the funding and for resident to call his office- Chicago 773 734-9660, D.C. 202 225-0773.]

Maroon April 17, 2009. Jackson, Jr. takes first steps to bring $4 in earmark funding to the Point

Following a federal grant of $4 million to renovate the city's shoreline, including Promontory Point [this reporter was told that the funding is not for the Point- GO] Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. said last week he plans to seek an evaluation of the proposes shoreline construction next year [meaning: plans to seek next year an evaluation of.. GO], the first step in rebuilding the Point. The evaluation would review the proposed renovation's adherence to historical preservation standards.

"I have been urging Congressman Jackson to do this for some time, adn I wrote him a letter to that effect prior to his announcement," said Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston. "We will continue to urge representatives in Washington to get funding. I have been spearheading this issue for some time and am glad to see some movement."

Jackson will submit the request for funds for the 2010 fiscal year to the Committee for Appropriations subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. A provision for the third-party review, which would be performed by the Army Corps of Engineers, was authorized in 2007 by then-Senator Barack Obama. The provision of $450,000 for the review was previously delayed by budgetary complications during the Bush administration.

Senator dick Durbin and Mayor Richard M. Daley defended the $4 million earmarked federal funds for the Chicago Shoreline project at a press conference last month. "What major earmarks we put in the bill have to do with major problems," he said to the Chicago Sun-Times. "This is an investment in the future of the major asset of the city of Chicago....

Since 1991, about $354 million have been spent on restoring the city's shoreline, more than half of which was federal funding. Thus far, 5.8 miles of the targeted 8 miles have been restored.


The $410 b omnibus bill passed and signed in March 2009 includes $4 million for Chicago Shoreline. This DOES NOT include funds for the authorized 3rd party review charette, which will likely be a funding bill for fiscal 2010, according to a 5th Ward Office aide and Rep. Jackson's office. Note that the entire shoreline protection project is currently $60 million in the hole.

2008 updates

June 25, 2008. Hyde Park Herald, June 25, 2008. By Crystal Fencke
The preservation of Promontory Point is clearly in view, according to Jack Spicer, of the Promontory Point Community Task Force. The limestone revetment will be restored as part of the historic character of the popular lakefront site, he said.

In 2006,Promontory Point made Preservation Chicago's List of Most Endangered Places. Beginning in the 1980s, according to the Preservation Chicago web site, the entire shoreline of Lake Michigan experienced high water levels. The The Chicago Park District (CPD), the Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Chicago developed a plan to rebuild the limestone step revetment along the lakefront. The groups "signed a memorandum of agreement in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior's standards to ensure that the project would protect the historic value of the structure," according to the site.

But, when construction started in the 1990s, people were shocked when they saw long expanses of steel and concrete where the historic limestone had been. Only Promontory Point and an area around Diversey Harbor had been left alone. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency stopped the project.

After a few contentious years the city concluded in 205 that it cost more to uses limestone to do the repair work. The city then came up with its own compromise with the community to incorporate limestone, concrete and concrete that looks like limestone. The community didn't accept this "concreting over" of the sensitive historic site, according to Rick Bryant, spokesman for Cong. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2). With help from Jackson, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th ) and U.S. Sen Barack Obama, legislation recently passed both houses of Congress to appropriate $450,000 in federal funding for a third-party review.

U.S. Army Corps engineers from Buffalo, New York, will undertake the third-party review. Horace Foxall, who was an advisor in recovery efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, has already walked the site. Don Lamb, also of the task force, looks forward to working with Foxall. Lamb said that Foxall is a "super, super guy."

The review will be a three-day charette, or engineering planning meeting, with the community. All the previous work by the CPD and community will be taken into account, said Lamb.

This could happen as early as the end of this summer, or it might happen after the presidential election. The funds have been authorized as part of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). It has gone through the House and Senate [over presidential veto]. Right now they're just waiting for the approval, said Bryant of Congressman Jackson's office.

The WRDA, a multi-year bill that authorizes big projects, comes up every five or six years. Jackson sits on the federal House Appropriations Committee, which allocates funds for Army Corps of Engineers projects. He put in a request for appropriations of $450,000 to improve the limestone revetment; Obama was an advocate, guiding it through the Senate.

Task Force letter to community February 6, 2008

We are writing with an update on the slow but steady progress to save and preserve Promontory Point.

In October 2005 Senator Barack Obama took charge of what had been a controversial and difficult situation. With the assistance of Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) and Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., Senator Obama brought together all of the stakeholders in the Promontory Point project and crafted an agreement which would move the project forward. For the first time, all parties, including the city, were in agreement. That agreement cleared the way for a review of preservation options at t he Point under the direction of Army Corps of Engineers preservation expert Horace Foxall.

The wheels of the federal government revolve very slowly, but working with Congressman Jackson, Senator Obama achieved federal approval for this Point review process in November 2007 when the Water Resources Development Act was made law over a presidential veto. Once the funds for the preservation review are released, hopefully in early spring, the Army Corps process, a process that includes al stakeholders under t he supervision of Senator Obama, will take about a year to complete a preservation plan for Promontory Point. Senator Obama, even in the midst of a very busy election campaign, continues his stewardship of Point preservation - his staff meets regularly with the Executive Committee of the Community Task Force.

It has been an extraordinary alliance of elected officials, governmental agencies, and most importantly, community members and community groups that has made this effort so successful. This most recent stage of the effort has been slow but steady work. None of this could have been accomplished without the support and patience of the community.

Fred Blum, Bruce Johnstone, Don Lamb, Greg Lane, Connie Spreen, Jack Spicer


Letters of commentary

Jeff Edstrom says fix Point soon. Herald February 13, 2008

As February rolls around, my mind drifts to baseball and the start of spring training, and with it the anticipation of the warmth of summer. It makes me think about all of the fun things that my wife and i can do without 6-year-0ld son and 3-year-old daughter in Hyde Park in the summer.

But it's also a reminder of the one place in the neighborhood that we'd like to enjoy, put can't because it is increasingly unsafe-- Promontory Point.

The tumbling limestone blocks, the soil eroding into the lake from underneath, the unsteady footing and growing number of holes, combined with the broken concrete and twisted metal that you find just north of the Point, makes it inaccessible and unsafe for children, many seniors and people with disabilities. If a playground or a park were in such disrepair, people would be up in arms an demand that it be repaired to meet up to date standards immediately.

While I recognize the need to maintain some of the Point's historic elements, we need a Point that meets the needs and standards of 2008, not 1028. I applaud Alderman Hairston, Rep. Jackson and Sen. Obama for their effort in getting federal funding for a final study for fixing the Point. I hope the most recent plan -- one that already brings together safety, environmental, preservation and accessibility requirements with the addition of safe and legal swimming spots-- will help those working on the project come to a reasonable final plan in short order.

It's nice to enjoy the Point vicariously through the memories of other, but it would be better for my family to start building our own memories of the Point after almost eight years of living in Hyde Park. I just wonder how old my son and daughter will be when that actually happens.

It's time to fix the Point.


In October 2007 Congress passed, and in November overrode President Bush's veto of the Water Resources House and Senate Conference authorization act. Next is to get actual funding. Funds were hoped to be released in spring 2008. Note that the study and drawing of plans would take about a year.

Herald November 14 2007. - A bill enacted into law last Thursday opens the door to what may be the final scene of the ongoing struggle between Hyde Parkers and the city over preservation of the limestone revetment ringing Promontory Point. the bill authorizes fund for a third-party study that must adhere to national preservation standards in its review of plans for the beloved lakefront park.

"This is a milestone in a long process," said Don Lamb of the Community Task Force for Promontory Point. Horace Foxall of the Seattle District of the Army Corps of Engineers will conduct t he study. Foxall was picked, in part, owing to his experience in the field of preservation.

Lamb credited Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama for their sponsorship of negotiations between the community and the city that led to the agreement over a third-party review. Lamb praised the congressmen and their staffs for "sustained commitment to bringing about a solution that t he community wants and that's consistent with preservation."

The review must adhere to standards set forth by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Lamb said the funds would likely be appropriated next year.

August 1, 2007 the House gave its final passage of the Water Resources Development Act, 381-40. It contains language authorizing the third-party study to develop a plan to rehabilitate the Point in accord with preservation principles. Should funds be appropriated, and the study that all parties have signed on to conclude that restoration is feasible, the Buffalo and Washington State sections of the Corps will do the planning. Presumably this is a conference committee reported bill. The Senate reviews and acts next, likely in September.

As reported in the Herald, August 8, Jack Spicer said, "This is really good news for the community. Once again, Senator Obama and Representative Jackson have come through." Kenneth Edmonds, chief of staff for Jackson, said "This is a first step in the process." Keith Atkinson, Environmental Legislative Assistant for Sen. Obama, said: "This is what we have been trying to do. It's in the bill and we got what we wanted. Now, the actual money has to be obtained."

End of April 2007: House passes preservation authorization, funding for 3rd Party Review. The article is a reasonable short review of what the matter is all about, even though the parties including the Task Force say this is a time to put behind us the combats and replace "Save the Point" with "Saving" (or restoring or preserving) the Point. Note that it will take a privilege to actually get the charette funding into the 2008 budget as the latter is now technically closed.

As in the Hyde Park Herald, issue of May 2, 2007. By Brian Wellner, Editor

Before Promontory Point's limestone revetment can be preserved, stakeholders, notably presidential hopeful Barack Obama, are pushing that a third party of experts find the best approach.

That takes federal funding, specifically $450,000, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed last week with the Water Resources Development Act. The bill is expected to show up in the Senate floor in June, and an Obama spokesman told the Herald last week that its passage is all but guaranteed.

"There is enough momentum to get this passed," said Todd Atkinson, who works in Obama's Washington D.C. office.

The U.S. senator from Hyde Park, Atkinson said, does not anticipate any objections to language that U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. had first introduced back in 2005 that ensures the case to preserve the Pont's aging revetment becomes central to rehabbing the popular lakefront park.

The third party review will decide on the best way to repair the revetment using national historic preservation standards. "There has been a dispute between the community and the [Chicago] park district on what historic preservation means," Atkinson said. "We're finding something that people can agree on, and what better than national standards."

Atkinson referred to a debate that has pitted park district officials and city engineers against the community-based Point Task Force. Since 2001, both sides have argued over how to repair Promontory Point's shoreline, with the city charging that concrete is more durable than limestone while the task force funded an independent study that found limestone as effective as concrete when exposed to weather and lake conditions.

After attempts at compromise, the city introduced its last plan that incorporated limestone, concrete and concrete that looks like limestone in 2005, which during an open forum that September residents overwhelmingly opposed.

A month later Obama intervened in the debate at the request of local residents and started up a series of stakeholder meetings out of his downtown office. Before that the city and task force had funded, at 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston's request, a private mediator to study the feasibility of both limestone and concrete, but late city officials objected to his findings, which concluded that the limestone revetment could be saved without the use of concrete.

Because of community objections to city engineering studies that have favored the use of concrete, Atkinson said that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials from Buffalo and Seattle will lead the third party review.

As to why Obama, who in February announced a run to be the next U.S. president, would intervene in such a local controversy, Atkinson said the senator never forgot where he came from."You always remember your home," he said.

Could the city dispute the third party review's decision and proceed with its 2005 plan? Ald. Hairston does not think that would be in the city's best interest. "All parties agreed to sit down at the table," she said. "The process can't go on forever. The process has to be definitive. The third party review says this. That's it."

To save the limestone structure, the Point Task force had to first convince Rep. Jackson and later Sen. Obama that preservation is what Hyde Parkers want.

Now the task force is putting its money where its mouth has been since 2001, reporting that the organization has raised $92,218.50, including at least $38,000 in community donations. The organization reports that 448 individuals donated more than $25,000 to the task force and 29 businesses donated $7,705. Foundations contributed $53,800, the task force reports.

"It demonstrates that the entire Point effort has had a very high level of community support," said Hyde Parker Connie Spreen, a member for the task force's executive committee.

"The hero here is the community," added Jack Spicer. another task force executive committee member. "Hyde Park identifies itself with preserving he Point."

Spicer said reporting the task force's fundraising data should dispel the myth perpetrated for years by the city's "compromise plan" supporters that the task force represents only a "small fringe group that supports preservation."

About $40,000 donated to the task force funded an independent engineering study refuting the city's claims that the limestone revetment could not be saved and that concrete is superior to limestone for building a lakewall.

The task force contributed $13,000 to the mediator, Hyde Parker Jamie Kalven, who released his report in the spring of 2005. Money also went to paying architects, creating bumper stickers and signs, hosting community meetings, buying office supplies, etc.


Task Force letter May 16, 2007: The real hero of the Point is the community

The Community Task Force for Promontory Point would like to thank the Herald for it recent article (May 2) on the positive governmental action being taken by U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama at the federal level on behalf of preserving Promontory Point. This is a very good news.

We would also like to thank the Herald for its thorough and diligent coverage of the Promontory Point story for the last six years.

The real hero of the Point story is the community, and without your coverage it would have been almost impossible for the community to successfully express its insistence on true preservation of the Point.

The community was also heroic in its financial support of the campaign to Save the Point. The Task Force raised more than $92,000 and $38,000 of that was from almost 500 different individuals and businesses in the community--testimony to broad and determined commitment to preservation.

Of the funds raise, more than $72,000 was used to retain independent professional services--testimony to the high cost of refuting government "experts."

A 17-page professional review of the entire six-year fund raising effort is now available online at

Thanks to the Herald and the community for all they've done to Save Promontory Point.

Fred Blum, Bruce Johnstone, Connie Spreen, Jack Spicer, Executive Committee, Community Task Force for Promontory Point




Funding and Authorization looked more promising for December, 2006 in congress, or for success next year in the new Congress.

Hyde Park Herald, November 29, 2006. By Daniel J. Yovich.

Army Corps: Point study could be OK 'd next month. Jackson, Obama stay committed to Point rehab.

Congressional authorization needed to appropriate funding for a third-party study for the preservation of Promontory Point could come as soon as December. U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2) said on Monday he's "cautiously optimistic" that a congressional conference committee trying to negotiate compromise language for the Water Resources Development Act could approve the measure before Congress goes into recess for t he holidays. That bill contains the language that would set in motion the process of obtaining federal funning for the Point's restoration.

While there are no guarantees in Congress until a bill is signed into law, I am hopeful that the study will be funded next year and that this study will lead everyone to a mutually agreeable solution," Jackson said.

Jackson and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said the new Democratic majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate could facilitate the earmarking of funding for the study. That study will be overseen by Horace Foxall, a preservation expert for the Seattle District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But before Obama and Jackson can seek federal funding for the project, Congress must first authorize the study. Foxall said the Army Corps could begin its review and study"within a matter of just a couple months" once federal funding for the project is approved.

When Congress reconvenes in January, Jackson will return to a House Appropriations Committee that will be controlled by the Democrats, conceivably making it a less complex task to earmark money for the project."I expect that a Democratically controlled Congress is good news for preservationists in general, and for the Point in particular," Jackson said. "Sen. Obama and I will continue to do all t hat we can to fund this study as quickly as possible."

In next year's congress, Obama will leave his post on the Senate's Environmental and Public Works Committee he was able to work directly for Promontory Point's congressional authorization and funding--to accept new postings on the Senate's Veterans' affairs, Health an Homeland Security committees. The downside risk to winning federal funds for the study next year is t hat if the Water Resources Development Act bill is not passed in conference committee this year, the process to win congressional approval for the study would have to begin again.

If that happens, Obama said he will work with his colleagues on the Senate to restart the process. "I'll still have some influence in terms of making sure the process goes forward," Obama said.

Funding is needed to facilitate a study and third-party negotiations by the Army Corps to determine how best to repair and restore the Point's 70-year-old limestone lakewall. In August, the Chicago Park District agreed to follow the recommendations of the Army Corps study and review after years of opposing the Point's restoration.

The wrangling over how to best restore the Point has dragged on for six years, pitting preservationists led by the Point's Community Task force--who have fought to preserve the limestone lakewalls--against city agencies and the park district, which wanted to replace the limestone with concrete.

Community Task Force member Jack Spicer said his group is closely monitoring the congressional conference committee's progress on the Water Resources Development Act bill and remains hopeful a compromise on the bill can be reached before the current session of congress adjourn. "If they can't come to an agreement, we'll have to start all over again," Spicer said."But we are pretty optimistic that even if this doesn't get done now, Promontory Point will remain a priority for Sen. Obama and Congressman Jackson." Top

On the August 21, 2006 Task Force meeting

About 50 heard a report and assessment by Task Force leaders Greg Lane and Jack Spicer, with comments by representatives from Senator Obama's and Rep. Jackson's offices and by Maurice Lee for Ald. Hairston. Thanks were given, including to the community at large and support organizations, for successes. In general, the assessment was rosy now that the Park District (with great reluctance) signed on the Scope of Work for Preservation treatment and independent review of Point design. Task Force leaders stressed that the community has been given pride of place in consideration at meetings and (highly unusual if not unprecedented) the group for the community (not being a jurisdiction or an elected official or a standing broad advocacy organization) is a full partner in the agreement and process. (To Scope of Work document). the Task Force has been assured it (and the Senator) will be in the game until the last block is laid.

We were cautioned that the Scope of Work is a guideline document, not a contract and that success depends on both good will and funding for a charette meeting and then design to 35% by the Buffalo office of the Corps under Corps Preservation officer Horace Foxall, and finally choice by the parties between two preservation options for each of 5 sections or reaches of the Point revetment. (The review process will cost about $450,000). Such funding is by no means assured, will probably have to be all federal, and is being shepherded by the Senator and Representative but not yet in the budget. If secured, the process (except for an initial meeting) cannot begin before October and probably next year, we were told. The process itself is scoped to take 11 months and, with the Park District, city, and parts of the Corps not completely convinced, could go astray at any point. It depends on vigilance and time expended by the favorable parties, with community support, and upon good will by all the stakeholders. So, it will be years before work is done at the Point. Note: the city sticking points--and all parties are committed to successful, full achievement of these--include preservation to the extent that it does not preclude the others, namely achieving durable protection to the 50 year life of the project, accessibility, and reasonable cost of maintenance.

The Task Force stressed that access features will be included to and on the revetment. These will at least conform to the ADA standards for structures in a preservation project and likely considerably more.

Attendees stressed that they want to see full access "to the water's edge" meaning real swimming options. The Task Force cautioned that the city will not officially sanction swimming off the Point and the Task Force will not push the issue and wreck prospects for agreement. They noted that only decisions regarding access to the water's edge are noted in the document as requiring Park District approval (whatever force that may carry). (The only other single-party stipulation is that final agreement of the project, as a preservation project under the Memorandum, has to receive Illinois Historic Preservation Agency approval.)

The Task Force asked for ongoing input into decisions that will have to be made on two questions: What to do with the "coffins" concrete structure on the east end of the Point and best access features (and their locations) both down the revetment and to the water's edge. GMO


(In draft form) September 2006 HPKCC Conference Reporter article

Progress at The Point : Park District Signs on to Unique Arrangement, Design Work Can Begin Provided Funding Is Obtained

[By Gary Ossewaarde, HPKCC Parks Committee], from the September Autumn 2006 Conference Reporter

[Emphasis not in the original]

August 14 2006, the Chicago Park District, saying their conditions were met, agreed to cooperate in a third party review and preservation design process for the Promontory Point limestone revetment off 55th Street. A Scope of Work guideline document sets forth a framework and yearlong timetable leading to costing and choice between two preservation design options and 35% design for each of five sections of the Point shore.

The Scope of Work is unique in that it recognizes and gives full voice to the Community Task Force and local, state and national preservation agencies, not just to the legal jurisdictions (local partners) and officeholders. Indeed, Senator Obama has consistently given first and primary voice to the local community task force.
This document and process could be a nationwide model for communities seeking a real voice in localized projects. Both the Task Force and spokespersons for Sen. Obama’s and Rep. Jackson’s offices stressed at a public meeting August 21 that without the community’s solid and insistent support, none of this could have been accomplished.

Read the Scope of Work and the district’s letter of agreement in—look for link on the homepage or go to Parks, Point.

However, key to even starting the process is a currently unfunded two or three day “design charette” in Chicago that will review options and give direction to the Buffalo District and the Seattle preservation office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [and the rest of the review].

The catch is that funding has yet to be identified in the coming fiscal year federal budget. Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Senator Barack Obama are working very hard to secure funding. But the park district, city and others have, at least before their sign-on to the review process, fought Congressional funding. The decision will be made by the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee chaired by Rep. David L. Hobson (R. Ohio). Hobson is said by Rep. Jackson’s office to be more enthusiastic about funding the $450,000 formal charette since a visit to the Point. But Hobson must balance much, including that such programs usually have a federal-local cost split.

The park district and city have refused to provide any funds
for a charette or other review costs. This has been their position especially since Rep. Jackson and Sen. Obama gradually “federalized” the project last year and worked out a complex compromise. It engages the Corps of Engineers (un entangled and preservation-experienced divisions) to do third party review and also mandates governance by the preservation provisions of the 1993 Memorandum of Agreement on Chicago Lakeshore Protection. (“Federalization” started with Rep. Jackson including a preservation mandate into legislation concerning the Point and increased when Jackson and Obama learned that the park district’s Point plan was accepted by Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the project would either proceed in a way rejected by the community or else not done at all.)

So all that need happen to block both review and repair of the Point is that the House subcommittee not write legislation for the review process this or in future years. Even under favorable circumstances, no work will be done on the Point for several years. Funding for the reconstruction itself, although technically 65% federal and 35% local partner (park district, city and state), the federal funding was allocated years ago for stretches not including the Point, so the Point section is up to the city to fund.

We should rejoice in crossing another hurdle. For the first time the park district is officially aligned along with all the other parties in commitment to the review and preservation process. And the community is included as a partner in a federally-led project. But there are many hurdles and potential misdirection ahead, and no guarantee either the review or the revetment project will ever be done.

Should review go forward, there are several choices in which the community must prepare to take part, mainly at public meetings and call for comments from the Task Force and Senator Obama’s office or convened by all the parties. The chief choices will be between two design options offered for each section, especially whether to keep the “coffins” on the east end, and the manner of enhanced access down to the water’s edge—access that subtly but surely enables good swimming, even though the park district will not recognize swimming at the Point. Concerns of the swimmers, such as registered at the August 21 Task Force meeting, are among the most vocal and difficult to meet well, despite task force and elected official commitment. Look for meeting announcements in our website homepage and calendars.

A major crisis that could have derailed the entire collaborative review and design process ("Scope of Work" document) was abated on August 14, 2006 when the Park District dropped unique conditions and agreed to sign on to the March-May 2006 hammered-out review process, as had all other parties, including the Army Corps Compliance, Buffalo and Seattle offices, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, The Task Force, Sen. Obama, Rep. Jackson, Ald. Hairston, and preservation organizations Landmarks Pres. Co. of Illinois, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Preservation Chicago. In mid August the Task Force said a firm "no"- we will walk from the process- to the latest stalling and conditionality by the Park District. Senator Obama, with backing from Ald. Hairston, called the PD and let them know possible consequences of collapse of the process. The PD agreed to accept the "Scope of Work for the Preservation of Promontory Point" document for the review process. (Note that this is not a contract but a good will guide to process.)

Expect the time frame to be a minimum of three years under even the fastest progress and good will.

There was a very positive public meeting August 21 (See above) to explain what is being envisioned as engineering and design, guided by an official design charette of the parties held no earlier than the fall, and after 35% design, final choices and approval by the stakeholders. The August 21 meeting heard lots of public input and guidance; more would be needed as crucial decisions approached, the meeting was told.

(Note that the Park District and local branch of the Army Corps have been opposing, at least until now, a budget line for the final charette being shepherded by Rep. Jackson and Sen. Obama, and the Park District could still balk when design is presented at the charette, so there are still potential obstacles.) The Task Force wishes the community to know they know that none of the progress made would have been possible without the solid support and participation of the community.


Letter from Park District agreeing to participate in the Review/Scope of Work

August 14, 2005 [sic]

Ken Bennett, Illinois State Director
Senator Barack Obama
John C. Kluczynski Federal Building
230 S. Dearborn, Suite 3900
Chicago, IL 60604

Dear Mr. Bennett,

I have reviewed the 8/14/06 draft "Scope of Work for the Preservation of Promontory Point along the Chicago Shoreline, Chicago, IL" proposed to be conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Park District is open to preservation enhancements that provide the level of shoreline protection/storm damage reduction for a 50-year project life; provide an appropriate level of accessibility to the water's edge for persons with disabilities; represent a reasonable costs [sic] to local agencies for construction and maintenance and continue to meet approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in consultation with the Illinois State Historic Preservation Officer. The draft scope appears to address each of these criteria, and should treat each with equal importance.

While the Park District does not commit to stipulations other than those listed in the 1993 "Memorandum of Agreement for the Illinois Shoreline Erosion Interim 3," we welcome outside review for the exploration of any preservation options that can meet project criteria. Please let me know how I can be of assistance.


Robert Rejman
Director of Lakefront Construction
Chicago Park District

A message from the Community Task Force for Promontory Point, August 17, 2006

Dear Member of the Promontory Point Community --

Early Tuesday morning the Chicago Park District finally agreed to the preservation review process that the Community Task Force has been fighting for for over five years. This agreement is the
product of work by a coalition of political, community, and preservation groups, including Senator Barack Obama, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr, the Army Corps of Engineers Office of Preservation Expertise, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Landmarks Illinois, Preservation Chicago, the Hyde Park Historical Society, and the Community Task Force for Promontory Point. This group has been working together for five months to draft a process designed to ensure "the most preservation possible" at the Point. With the good faith participation of all parties this review process will lead us to the preservation of Promontory Point. This is very good news for all who have worked during the past five years to Save Promontory Point -- none of this could have happened without the persistence of this community.

This preservation review will mark the beginning, at long last, of the real work of preservation and repair at the Point - but the fight is not over. We must remain deeply involved and diligently watchful until the last limestone block is replaced.

There will be an important meeting to announce and discuss this agreement this coming:

August 21
Hyde Park Neighborhood Club
5480 S Kenwood Ave

Everyone is encouraged attend the meeting -- all are welcome. If you can't make it, please get an update from a friend who can.

Community Task Force for Promontory Point



Reading behind the lines of the Herald article (August 16) that preceded resolution

In the Herald article by Brian Wellner, the Park District is shown to be saying it was agreeing to the process even while it was seeking to have conditions accepted--without which it told the Senator's office the pd would withdraw and go back to its previous plan, do what you will. The Herald took spokesmen's statements to mean the city would no longer seek its hybrid and split treatment plan of part concrete and part limestone. Rob Rejman, pd project manager for the Point, is cited by the herald a s saying his office sent a letter Monday afternoon to the senator saying it would cooperate with "creation of a design that is handicap accessible, lasts at least 50 years and is not cost prohibitive." (This could not have been the extent of conditions or were code or else there would not have been such strong reaction on the part of Senator Obama as well as the Task Force. This source was told that in verbal conversations the Park District said it wanted to be not involved in "preserving" the Point.) "Everybody is trying to get on the same page," Rejman is quoted.

On the other hand, the Herald cites Obama's spokesperson Julian Green as saying that a meeting with the park district earlier that day was encouraging. Maybe this was before the pd position hardened or else after reversal. Green did tell the Herald that the Park District was continuing its objection to recognizing the importance and binding nature of the 1993 Memorandum of Agreement signed by the various parties. Green said the language of the MOA sets the tone for third-party review. (So, to be still objecting to the MOA, the pd was in effect resisting third party review and the primacy of the preservation mandate of the MOA.) Greg Lane of the Task Force told the Herald that "The entire project has been guided by the MOA from the beginning."

Third party review is still expected to be formally started at a three- day charette to be held in the fall or latter--as yet unfunded and whose funding is or was resisted by the Park District and their local allies in the Corps of Engineers, (Rep. Jackson and Sen. Obama are shepherding the funding.)


Herald coverage of August 23 2006: No money, no Point (reconstruction), Jackson lobbies feds for independent review of limestone

(Cf. Assessment GO above) (Note, Jackson last year put into legislation restrictions on how money for the Point could be spend, not appropriation of funds to reconstruct.)

By Brian Wellner

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. who found federal money last year for Promontory Point's restoration, has to now to convince a fellow congressman to fu nd an independent review to examine the feasibility of saving and repairing the Point's limestone revetment.

The review must occur before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers begins repair work on the Point...If the federal government agrees this fall to earmark $450,000, then the review can begin early next year. Jackson's office told the Herald last week.

Earlier this month, Jackson invited U.S. Rep. David L. Hobson (R. Ohio) to tour the Point along with other stretches of the city's lakefront. Hobson is chairman of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds army corps projects around the country.

Jackson's spokesman Rick Bryant said Hobson seemed unsupportive at first. "Without saying anything specifically, he seemed coming in predisposed to not supporting it." Bryant said. Then the congressman's attitude changed after the saw how well the southern half of the revetment has held up after 70 years. "After viewing it he had a greater appreciation for what the community was trying to preserve," Bryant said."Whether that translates into federal dollars I could not guess."

Those federal dollars will be decided after Labor Day, when members of the House and Senate meet in a conference committee. Jackson will not be a part of that conference committee, but Hobson will. Said Bryant, Jackson has to convince Hobson to add language to Water Resources Development Act that includes the independent review. If he doesn't include the language, then the review will be postponed for another year.

The City of Chicago has already said it will not fund any part of the review while earlier this week agreeing to a review in a letter to U.S. Senator Barack Obama. Officials said Obama, who has taken on a leading role in the Point rehab debate, is also trying to lobby Hobson to fund the review.

But asking the federal government to fund the review in full is out of the norm and could be out of the question Bryant said. Typically the federal government funds half of any army corps project while the local, sponsoring agency, in this case the City of Chicago, fund the other half. "We're at a stand still," said Bryant. And without a decision from Hobson, the only step Jackson can take is to follow up personally with his fellow congressman from Ohio on the House floor.

Bryant said that postponing the review another year could cause a mediation process that began in Obama's office last October to fall apart. The senator intervened after the Chicago Park District's latest "compromise plan" to reconstruct the northern two-thirds of the Point with two steps of concrete and two steps of limestone backfired with the community.

The Community Task Force for Promontory Point fired numerous complaints at the city's plan, notably that it was created in the absence of preservation experts and in disregard to community input and wishes.

Obama's spokesman Julian Green said the independent review ensures the case to preserve the Point's revetment becomes central to the lakefront's rehab. "The senator is clear that we're starting from scratch." Green said. "We want to make sure that the community has an opportunity to have an independent, third party review done."

Members of the community will have the option of selecting possible approaches to restoring the Point during a proposed three-day charette that will kick off the independent review. Horace Foxall, a preservation expert for the Seattle District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer , agreed to lead the charette. The results will then be sent to army corps engineers to determine feasibility and cost.

Said Greg Lane, the Community Task Force's spokesman, "It's all downhill from there. we will begin the process of preserving the Point instead of just talking about preserving it. after nearly six years, it's time to begin the actual work. We've had enough of talking about it."


Concrete failing prematurely in some other sections of new revetment;
A poorly-advertised last-chance to comment by July 26 on the 40th Street section.

The prospect is bleak for either maintenance cost or the lakefront holding up if much of the concrete is going to fail so soon and extensively. Such repairs (and maintenance in general) is not funded in the projects. Was limestone indeed a better deal all along? Substantial cracks are already noticeable at 57th beach.

Hyde Park Herald, July 19, 2006. By Brian Wellner

One engineer says if poured correctly, concrete should not crack this badly so soon.

A firm hired by the Chicago Park District recently repaired several cracks in the revetment the U.S. Army Corp of Engineer built at 31st Street beach six years ago and is planning to extend down to include Promontory Point.

On June 28 Jose Arroyo of Takao Nagai Associates repaired 17 cracks--some measuring 20 feet long--in a process that requires drilling and patching the damaged slabs of concrete. He said the cracks were caused by the weather. Chuck Shea of the army corps told the Herald last week that while some cracking is typical of concrete when it settles, the cracks he saw at t he 31st Street revetment were "beyond what we thought was typical."

As project manager for the Chicago Shoreline Storm Damage Reduction Project Shea oversees construction of concrete revetments from Montrose Avenue south to 57th Street. Several stretches of he revetment are complete. The park district is proposing to rebuild the limestone revetment around Promontory Point using a combination of concrete and limestone blocks joined together.

While the park district has applauded the engineering behind the 31st Street revetment, the engineers themselves said they were not expecting the degree of damage that has occurred there in six years. "We didn't anticipate these types of cracks," said Mike Nguyen, an assistant project manager with the army corps. When settled[,] concrete produces a kind of hairline crack no thicker than a business card. The cracks at 31st street were a half an inch wide in some places and broke off into several smaller cracks at the edge of the revetment, looking much like a river's delta.

"It could get worse," Ngygen said. "The city wanted to address the problem." According to Shea, the $250,000 both the city and army corps is paying firms like Takao Nagai to reseal the cracks was not figured into the original cost of the overall shoreline project, estimated in 1999 at $300 million. The federal government is responsible for 65 percent of the cost while the city picks up the other 35 percent. After 2009, when officials say the project should conclude, the army corps will hand the responsibility for repairing the revetments over to the park district.

Nguyen said the work currently underway at 31st street should alleviate much of [the] cracking problem for now. Besides resealing the cracks, the city is replacing the joints between the concrete slabs every 100 feet to allow for greater flexibility in the overall structure.

Hyde Parker Sam Garde, a retired concrete engineer, said that any repair work being done this early means that something went wrong in either the design or the construction of the revetment.

The revetment is built on a pre-stressed system of steel rods copyrighted by DYWIDAG Systems International. The rods are pulled and stretched under enormous pressure, and once the concrete is poured the rods are released from the jacks that stretched them. The rods take several years to move back to their original length, which compresses the concrete around them. According to, the process is common in suspension and long-span concrete bridges.

Guard said hairline cracks will appear, but they are hardly noticeable and would not need to be sealed. "The process does not prevent cracks," he said. It prevents cracks from being flaws." The park district deferred all questions to the army corps.



Poorly-advertised/announced chance to comment on concrete for 40th Street section closes July 26

Hyde Park Herald, July 19, 2006

If people wish to comment on a concrete revetment model that may replace Promontory Point's limestone wall, they have less than one week to mail their comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The model is located near 40th Street and the lakefront, about 1,000 fet south of the Oakwood Avenue overpass.

Comments are due no later that July 26 to Keith Ryder, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 111 N. Canal St., Suite 600, Chicago, IL 60606. Faxes and e-mails are not allowed.

The Herald first learned of a notice soliciting public input on July 14. According to the notice, the model "is intended to re-create the appearance of limestone blocks originally placed along the Chicago lakefront."

The notice references three North Side segments of the lakefront where concrete revetments are being proposed. While Promontory Point at 55th Street and the lakefront, where preservation of its limestone revetment is still under debate, is not mentioned in the notice, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) said she presumes the model [affects] any future lakewall's the army corps intends to build. That also includes a stretch of the lakefront from 40th to 51st streets, in the alderman's ward.

Preckwinkle said she had no idea the army corps was soliciting comments on the model until the Herald faxed her the notice July 14. She said any plans for "experimental concrete treatment" must go through the North Kenwood-Oakland Conservation Community Council, where in meetings at the Kennicott Park Community Center, 434 s. Lake Park Ave., the public is invited to view and comment on new developments in the 4th Ward.

The notice was sent to the Herald from Robert Clark with the Lakeview Revetment Task Force. He was sent the notice a week earlier from Ald. Tom Tunney (4th). Clark said neighborhood organizations active on the issue, including the Community Task Force for Promontory Point, were unaware the Army Corps was soliciting public input by July 26. It is unknown where else the notice has appeared.

Calls to Keith Ryder at 312 846-5587 , the number that appears in the notice, were not returned by Herald presstime.


And Lakeview Citizens' Council weighs in, in Herald letter Aug. 30, "Thanks Sen. Obama"

Over the last few years, in repeated meetings, letters and petitions, the public has consistently objected to the new concrete-and-steel revetment that is being build along the lakeshore in Chicago. Again and again, from the South Side to the Northside, the following objections have been made.

The revetment's "concrete runway" design is stark and unrelenting. The construction ignores the historic value of the original limestone seawalls. This stretch specifically known as the "Belmont Rocks" has been a historic part of Chicago's Gay and Lesbian community.

The sheer drop-off to the water is dangerous and has caused life-threatening accidents. The unsafe drop-off also cuts people off from the lake, denying access to the water. The construction is destroying the naturalistic limestone fishing grounds of the Black-Crowned Night Heron, an Illinois Endangered Species whose numbers have dwindled along the new revetment.

Ironically, the new revetment is already cracking and causing the land behind it to wash away. It is actually causing the very erosion it was deigned to prevent. This is a flagrant waste of millions of taxpayers' dollars.

We are very grateful that U.S. Senator Barack Obama has intervened at Promontory Point and has succeeded in replacing this inadequate design with a plan for historic preservation. We now call upon Sen. Obama, along with other elected representatives and public officials, to do the same for the remaining stretches of Chicago's historic limestone seawalls. Sadly, only a few remain.

On the North Side as well as the South Side, we insist on a lakefront that respects history and is accessible, safe and as beautiful as it has always been.

David Winner, President, Lake View Citizens' Council



Some letters and comments

From Walter L. Michael: Make improvements (mainly ADA) at Point, punish those who trash it. Herald, August 22, 2007

I just came back from a walk around the Point. I have enjoyed such walks since 1972 (throughout the year). Coming home I read the story, "House Bill brings Point preservation step closer" (Hyde Park Herald, Wednesday, Aug. 8, p. 1).

I have not participated in any talks about the Point during the last few years. I thought that what I am thinking is so logical and obvious. I am convinced that there is a need for the following:

I am getting older, and I am having a very tough time getting down to walk along the water's edge.

I have no nostalgic feeling about the jumble of stones that are terribly hard to negotiate while trying to get down to the water's edge.

Also, I do not understand my fellow human beings who throw away their garbage. Would they litter their own living rooms? There should be stiff fines for littering.

The Point is our front yard, backyard, even our living room--our unbelievable treasure. Sitting there, one can forget that there is a bustling world-class city a few yards away.

Oh, on the west side of the Point there could/should be another toilet facility (on the east side of the viaduct or even in the viaduct).

A brief timeline of the Point project (more in Burnham Park Timeline)