"Other revetment sections": Progress on mid South Lakefront Shoreline Protection Project 31st-79th Streets and reports of community meetings

This page is presented by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its Parks Committee and website hydepark.org. Join the Conference, help support our work.

Park News home. Promontory Point home. Point Latest. Other Parks (Burnham). Burnham Park Timeline. Burnham (47th) Natural Area. Promontory Point Park. Jackson Park home. South Shore Cultural Center. Lakefront Protection Ordinance. Burnham Park Framework Plan. Compare with 130 years of lakefront protection from 53rd through Jackson Park. See article on the Iowa Building and Paved Beach as early lakeshore protection. South Lakefront Access projects.
South of 57th.

45th to 51st: Visit 45th to 51st (Morgan Shoal/Pebble Beach) and Concept dwg views, Later concepts, Final concept design, views
That was 2004. In 2014 the section is up again for consideration. A new factor is the historic wreck Silver Spray.
Next public meeting: tba early 2015, 6:30 pm Morgan Shoal shoreline protection and park improvement meeting. CPD and partners are coming with a new plan. Please join the Chicago Park District along with CDOT for a public meeting regarding improvements for Burnham Park between 45th Street and 51st Street.
February 26, Thursday, 6:30 pm. 3rd public meeting on the Morgan Shoal shoreline protection and park improvement plan 47th-52nd.
Chicago Park District, CDOT and Army Corps of Engineers. Kennicott Park fieldhouse, 4434 S. Lake Park Ave. Report coming.

The new 31st St. beach and beachhouse and revetment and 41st St. beach and revetment sections opened 2009.
41st St. Beachhouse opened July 17, 2010.
Next: 31st St. Harbor (done), 35th St. railroad and LSDr. pedestrian overpass- begun summer 2014.
Overpasses at 41st and 43rd were approved entered design planning in summer 2014.

The next meeting on the Morgan Shoal (45th-51st) shoreline will be in mid December.

and there was the severe damage- and presage? from the October 31 Halloween 2014 superstorm.

And work to the north of here along the Drive has drawn considerable attention-- first the removal of so many invasive trees and brush and so far partially complete replanting, the yearly cycles of native planting- mowing- spring burns, the oversized and inadequately serviced 31st marina, and now vast removals for the 35th overpass, with two more to come.

from Ald. Burns' Newsletter: Construction of the 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge has begun. Effective now, the bridge will be closed. The project is expected to be completed by the Fall of 2015. It includes, but is not limited to the following:

Removal of the existing pedestrian bridge
Resurfacing and improvements to 35th Street from South Cottage Grove to South Lake Park Avenue
Resurfacing and improvements on South Lake Park Avenue between 35th Street and 36th Street
Patching and reconstructing sidewalks on South Lake Park Avenue and 35th Street
Removal and reconstruction of street lighting on South Lake Park Avenue and 35th Street
Furnishing and installing roadway lighting and accent lighting on the proposed bridge structure
Construction of and landscaping for pedestrian plaza areas at the east and west approaches to the proposed bridge
Relocation of a cantilever sign on northbound, South Lake Shore Drive

43rd-45th revetment. Completed and dedicated June 2013.

From Ald. Burns 4th Ward Newsletter June 21, 2013. I joined U.S Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), officials from the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Chicago Park District (CPD) and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at a press conference today to celebrate the completion of the two-year-old effort to complete a section of the Shoreline Protection Project from 43rd Street to 45th Street. The project is part of an effort to restore and secure 9.2 miles of the deteriorated revetment.

Senator Durbin helped negotiate an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Chicago and the USACE on the $300 million project, which protects the Lake Michigan shoreline and Lake Shore Drive. The project features include steel sheet pile, concrete stair-step revetments, beach nourishment and creation, landscaping, lakefront trail, and other drainage improvements.The infrastructure that it replaces was built in the early 1900s.

In this page:

Public meetings on the 45th to 51st Streets design. Next?
Note, the construction and phasing for Morgan Shoals lakefront expansion have been put off a few months to a couple years partly to refine design and cost and partly because some funds were diverted to Iraq and other Corps projects. Expansion and new beach et al continues at 31st.

Other status changes. Permit was been filed and work begun for the section 43rd to 45th Streets. This will include a sheet wall revetment and use of limestone blocks in the water to create aquatic habitat. To receive information or a copy, contact Jim Casey at the city, 312 703-5947.

From just before yesterday. January, 1957, the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference called on the park district to realize Burnham's plans with new promontories at 37th and 47th. Today extensive new parkland including recreated natural areas and beaches is being created at these approximate new locations, although more like bulges than promontories.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (federal partner) and the Chicago Department of Environment and Chicago Park District (local partner) have undertaken, with a large contingent of engineers, consultants, and construction contractors, a massive project to reconstruct by 2005 approximately eight miles of deteriorated Lake Michigan shoreline in Chicago. The project goes back at least to the mid 1970's.

In the late 1980s, high lake levels created much flooding. In January, 1987, the Army Corps of Engineers announces it is studying shoreline erosion in light of high lake levels that threaten Lake Shore Drive (and the park). February 11, the Drive has to be closed due to high waters. This culminated, after much controversy, in a 1993 memorandum of agreement to rebuild the shoreline (revetments) according to historic designs. (Of course, there was and is disagreement as to exactly what was agreed upon and how the job is to be done, and even on the premises and determination of need for the project.) The Task Force for Promontory Point has available a two-page summary of the thirty-years and more behind the project. And much more information is available at the Chicago Department of Environment and Army Corps of Engineers websites. Congress passed the first bill in 1996; it was later revised to accelerate the project and provide more funding (from $110 m to $301).

For more background to the overall project, visit introductory section to the July 13 Task Force Plan under Point home page or the sites immediately above. Note that even though Burnham is an historic park, it is not thought that Burnham as a whole is what was in mind when special legislative provisions concerning treatment were put into the federal enabling act of 1993-4 for handling the more "historic sections" of the lakeshore.

Statement of Overview by the federal and local partners (Army Corps, Chicago Dept, of Environment, Chicago Park District)

Chicago's shoreline is largely man-made, constructed on landfill an average of 1500 feet wide. Filled in over the course of the last century to create additional land and recreation areas, Chicago's lakefront property requires shore protection to prevent erosion and storm damage. The existing shoreline protection structures, known as revetment, have substantially outlived their design life. Because of their deteriorated condition, these revetment no longer provide adequate protection from flood and storm damage. Major reconstruction of collapsing structures is needed to preserve the integrity of Chicago's shoreline. This project is designed to prevent further storm damage and loss of valuable land, infrastructure and facilities. The recommended plan will also maintain safe access to the shoreline while preserving its recreational and aesthetic value.

Design Goals for the Shoreline Protection Project

Following is a brief summary of where the project stands along the mid-south sector.

McCormick Place to 37th Street

These sections are largely complete. Sheet wall and concrete revetments do not make up the whole stretch, for example at 31st Street Beach (considered by some too small). And Burnham Park here has some new, progressive lighting, a new "prototype" beachhouse (including bathrooms, concession, and lifeguard station), improved bike-car-transit separation and interface, an innovative skateboard rink, and two nature sanctuaries. See bottom for further description of proposed plans for this new parkland. Also, the Department of Transportation and the Chicago Area Transportation Study announced in summer, 2003 that federal funds have been found to build an accessible bike and pedestrian overpass at 35th Street.

Many persons have expressed disappointment with certain aspects of the seawall portions, including great difficulty or impossibility of getting out of the water once one is in, the abruptness of the transition from water to land, difficulty of getting to the water's edge and navigating the "steps", the starkness of the concrete and the steel sheet wall, and obscured views from the Drive and park.

The city says it has learned several lessons from experience and public input, partially from these stretches and 51st-54th:

At a July 15, 2003 public meeting on the next section south, several persons questioned whether all the right lessons were learned or learned well, particularly about universal access, best access (ramps or stairs including with or without rails), step heights, safety ladders and inability to enter/exit the water, need for more texturization of concrete and imitation of limestone, view from out on the water.


31st, 37th Street to 45th/47th Street (actually three sections)

Renderings and view of work in progress

More details. This section will be on DOE's website with up to date pictures and drawings by the end of August. www.cityofchicago.org/Environment/Shoreline.html.

The park district applied in summer 2008 for permits on the 31st Harbor and revetment (also Diversey). Applications were submitted to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. This plan is very different from anything in the 1999 Burnham Framework Plan. It will go 2,500 feet (half a mile) south of the 31st pier, 4 acres of new parkland, 2,050 foot stone breakwater, 242 foot stone groin for shore protection and fishing pier. Sheet pile will go 450 feet into the lake then backfill[?] for the 4-acre park. The harbor will have 10 floating docks with 830 boat slips. See plans ast Chicago Office of Water Resources, Jim Casey at 312 793-5947.

37th south:

Parts of this stretch have already been done as of July, 2003, including sheet wall several hundred feet out in the lake and completed but not connected sections. Persons who have seen the sections say they are indeed better than 51st-54th, but still offer awkward negotiation. A public meeting was held July 15 at Kennicott Park. Follow up is planned for August 7th at 6:30 pm.

This stretch will see serious addition to parkland (two mini "points") and recreational possibilities, including fishing piers and a beach (2-3 acres like that at 31st) on the south curve of the 39th Street headland. There will be parking (100 but expandable vs 139 spaces now) east of the Drive, but the bike path will be separated from it. (Note that this differs from the Framework, which banished parking east of the Drive, a feature strongly contested at framework planning meetings.) Bike/ped overpasses are anticipated at 41st (already in design-concept competition) and 43rd. Descents will be gradual. The landscape will be re sculptured while keeping trees. The bike path will be raised for full visibility for riders, improved and moved closer to the lake. (Residents asked and DOE was interested in dividing the path at points of furthest departure from present to allow a choice of going close to the lake or close to the Drive.) A running path will be continuous along the lakefront (eventually).

For parking lot drainage, the new approach will be used: water will not be piped to the MWRD sewers but allowed to spread out on grass with wet-friendly plants (phytocleaners) and the excess to work its way partially cleansed into the lake.

The fishing piers have safe and friendly features including "seatwalls". Submerged about 5 feet below the water surface will be aquatic habitat- patterns of broken limestone blocks to serve as homes for various fish, culminating about a hundred feet out (within casting distance) in higher "reefs." (Two geometries are being tested. and these will be kept below the near-keel depths that trip up boats at Morgan Shoal.) The so-called Mermaid Stone ("sculpted" from one of the limestone blocks in the 1960's) will be placed on land.

Construction phasing:

Criticisms and alternative suggestions. Presenters (including DOE Commissioner Jimenez and the project manager) said they will seriously look at these.

More details.

Update from August 7 presentation. The beach has been doubled in size from under 500 to 1000 feet and from 1.7 acres to 7 and goes further into the lake. In the process, the sitting and fishing pier is doubled in length. The 39th beachhouse will be "larger and better" than the one at 31st. Good mating of ground with future overpass is promised, also with the one funded for 35th.

Presenters August 7 were again urged to broaden access for those with limited abilities not in wheelchairs but who would like to get close up. Suggested also was holding off on the south most stretch so it can gel with the to-be-planned different treatment 47th to 49th and to consider one or more mini embayments/grottoes of limestoned slopes to the waterline.


45th to 51st Streets

Click here to visit development of the Morgan Shoal/45-51st Sts. pages. Final plan.


51st to 54th Streets- as of the early 2000's with a few updates

Done. See pictures. Persons criticized it on aesthetic and access grounds- the steps, the unprotected sheet wall, and access from above and other revetment sections. Commissioner Jimenez has agreed that two more years is too long to wait- she will consider a temporary access ramp on the north side. Few seem to use this section. They say they cannot re-put the intermediate steps because of obstruction to ADA access and these are not safe without railings, themselves very problematic.

This revetment has also been criticized for its contrast to Promontory Point- bright and stark, too regular, and not limestone. This contrast side by side did much to re-energize opposition to the city/Army Corps plan for the Point.

54th to 56th (Promontory Point)

On hold - see Point, see Promontory Point pictures.

56th and 57th beach

Under construction. North point will be made so it can fit with any final location of the end of Promontory Point revetment. The construction is one with the building of the underpass under Lake Shore Drive at 57th. Some beach will be lost. Materials will include limestone (stored at 51stJ), curving concrete steps, and grass. There will be a partially-submerged headland-pier to help hold sand. In June, 2004 the $5 seawall and second bulwark for the 57th underpass landing was nearly done, being done from barges to avoid impacting the bike trail. Once this second, permanent replacement for the 2 year old temporary one, new beach sand will be put in.

Further south:

All of the following are not in any formal plans at present but have been suggested- the portion of :

Corps of Engineers, when asked in conjunction with the Promontory Point controversy: changes until south of the 59th Inlet, where a remnant of 1880s granite-paver sloped strolling beach was to be raised and re-lain in conjunction with a new (more or less) ADA compliant bike path, nearly to the recovery ramps of the 63rd Street beach underpass. This was done in conjunction with the South Lake Shore Drive reconstruction project in the early 2000's.

There are remnants of nearly gone piers and breakwaters in the La Rabida/harbors area-- and some boaters say the breakwater was botched and actually speeds up silting of the Jackson Park Harbor inlet. There have been at least two proposals in the past 20 years to expand the harbor into the Lake including new breakwaters- they did not come to fruition.

The seawall could be extended out at 67th and South Shore for a ped-bike underpass and new bike and emergency vehicle access to South Shore Cultural Center. This is proposed in preliminary concepts for the golf consolidation 2016-17. Much of the shoreline is badly eroded and causes flooding south of 67th and also at the nature center at South Shore Cultural Center.

Stretches between 71st and Rainbow Beach were, the Army Corps suggested in informal conversation, to have new, extended seawalls and amenities. Such are in the 2010's under consideration for changes in conjunction with the city-endorsed "Last 4-Miles" proposed project. And south of there some stabilization and fill work was done at the former South Works.


Concrete failing prematurely in some other sections of new revetment;
A poorly-advertized 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?

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 th concrete slabs every 100 feet to allow for greater flexibility in the overall structure.

Hyde Parker Sam Guard, 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 dywidag-systems.com, 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-advertized/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 lakewalls 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, 4434 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.


New plans for Oakland-North Kenwood sections of Burnham Park

New 'mini-Point' planned for the Oakland lakefront

Hyde Park Herald, July 23, 2003. By Maurice Lee

The city will build a 15-acres peninsula, sandy beach and underwater limestone reef between 45th Street and Oakwood Boulevard, Department of Environment officials announced last week.

As the city rehabs the North Kenwood-Oakland shoreline with a concrete and steel-based revetment, it will also create a landfill peninsula—a new Burnham Park structure that will look like a smaller version of Hyde Park's Promontory Point.

Planners also intend to build an underwater toe-stone barrier to act as an "artificial reef" to attract fish and fishermen. The toe stone will provide added protection for the revetment by deflecting wave fronts and will be made from limestone recycled from the rehab project.

The plan for the North Kenwood-Oakland shoreline is one of the final legs of the city's $301 million Shoreline Revetment project.

While the concrete-and-steel revetment has been at the center of controversy about 10 blocks south along the lakefront at Promontory Point, it hardly seemed to ruffle fathers with North Kenwood-Oakland and Hyde Park residents at the recent meeting where city and park district officials introduced the plan. Residents there seemed more concerned about what amenities the new development would bring than what the revetment would be made of. [Ed.- there is also not much intact to preserve there.]

Features to be included along the lakefront include a new, two-block-long sandy beach. Planners say the new 40th Street Beach will be roughly the same size and orientation as 31st Street Beach, with two piers protecting the beach area and costing about $15 million to construct.

But given Bronzeville' rapidly expanding population, some residents say the community will quickly outgrow the beach. "If you're going to spend 15 million to build two blocks of beaches, why don't you add another $10 million an make it something special?" South Sider Marjorie Love asked officials at last week's meeting. [Ed.- at the next meeting the beach was shown greatly expanded.]

Some wanted to see the shoreline's current limestone blocks preserved and included in the design in a more visible way. "They've got the sand beach. I think they could have kind of a limestone-type beach access area between 43d and 45th," said Bronzeville resident Steve Kirschner.

The city said it will make the park more convenient to pedestrians by replacing the current "zigzag" parking strips with a single large parking lot set on the new peninsula, near its entrance. The bike and pedestrian path will be widened and pushed out toward the lake. The new bike and pedestrian path will be 20-feet wide, up from the current 14-foot wide paths, and will feature a two lane, 14-food-wide bike path with three-foot soft surface jogging lanes on both sides.

And rather than building sewers into Burnham Park to catch polluted rain run-off, planners will integrate new "green" technology—including plants that will use the pollutants for food—into the park.

But for all the promised features, some residents said the project did not go far enough, and called for amenities like restaurants and theaters they said are found in lakefront parks in other parts of the city. "I want to know when we'll be able to have brunch along the lake, said one resident. "I want to know when we're going to have the same amenities as the North Side.

According to Vasily Jurca, project manager for the Department of environment, much of what the city will do is limited by the scope and budget of the project. "It seemed that people were asking more about additional features outside the Shoreline project. We can incorporate as much as we have, obviously, budget for in the Shoreline project," said Jurca.

Josephine Bornstein, project manager for the park district, said given the level of investment the city and the park district is putting into the south lakefront, residents can expect this revetment project to be the beginning of development in the area, not the end. "We're putting a lot of money into rebuilding this lakefront. It would certainly be a shame to leave it bare," said Bornstein. "Everything may not come at once, but it will come." Top

41st Street beachhouse

The 41st Street (Oakwood) beachhouse was dedicated July 17, 2010. Remarks were made by Ald Preckwinkle, Mayor Daley, state Sen. Raoul, Erinn Cabonargi (Dir., Public Building Commission) and Parks Supt. Timothy Mitchell who was master of ceremonies. The project was a partnership of the entities the speakers represented.

Environmental sustainability features were strong (LEED status is awaited) and include rainwater harvesting and use for utilities. Economic sustainability and minority and women inclusive was stressed. Architect was Muller + Muller, general contractor Pacific Construction Services.
A junior lifeguards program will be sited there.