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Critics Of Changing Lake Shore Drive To DuSable Drive Suggest Alternatives — But Supporters Aren’t Backing Down

Ald. David Moore said the votes are still there to pass an ordinance that would rename Lake Shore Drive after Jean Baptiste Point du Sable — and said attempts to rename the Riverwalk and Millennium Park in its place won't work.

Flickr/Will Fisher/Raed Mansour

CHICAGO — The lead sponsor of the proposal to rename Lake Shore Drive after the city’s Black founder says he has the votes to pass the measure without Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s support and plans to “stay the course” despite last-minute changes to his plan being floated a day ahead of a City Council vote.

Ald. David Moore (17th) told Block Club Tuesday the votes are still there to pass his ordinance that would rename Lake Shore Drive after Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, the city’s first non-indiginous resident who established a trading post at the mouth of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.

On Tuesday morning, Moore said he was approached by Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), who chairs the Transportation Committee, about a new idea that emerged in talks among aldermen and Lightfoot’s administration: tacking DuSable’s name onto the front of the iconic roadway to create Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive. 

Moore said he’s “always willing to listen,” but after he took the long-winded proposal to aldermen and community groups, they urged him to reject the offer and stick with DuSable Drive.

“And so we’re going to stay the course and just bring it up for a vote in its original version and move forward that way,” he said. 

Several alternatives to renaming Lake Shore Drive have been floated in recent days. Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) reportedly suggested renaming Millennium Park in DuSable‘s honor, but Moore said he that won’t make him ditch the Drive.

“If they want to do that as a complement to Lake Shore Drive, of course I’ll accept it, but as an alternative, absolutely not,” he said.

Renaming the city’s coastal drive is “not only just an honor” to DuSable, he said. Because it spans from the North Side to the South Side it’s about “connecting our city and bringing unity, because that’s what Du Sable was about.”

DuSable Drive would serve as a literal and figurative “bridge,” Moore said.

Lightfoot is opposed to the renaming, but has said it’s “long past due” to honor DuSable in a big way. In addition to completing a long-stalled DuSable Park near Navy Pier to the tune of $40 million, she suggested renaming the Riverwalk after DuSable, erecting new monuments to him and his wife, Kitihawa, and launching a DuSable Festival.

“This gives us a real opportunity to have not only a lasting, permanent set of memorials … but also programming to educate and activate and bring people to the Riverwalk around the concept of getting to know who DuSable and Kitihawa were,” Lightfoot previously said.

As talks continue ahead of Wednesday’s vote, Moore said he will not allow his proposal to head back to committee and be repackaged with Lightfoot’s proposal, noting he first introduced his proposal in 2019 and a similar proposal by then-Ald. Toni Preckwinkle was rejected in the 1990s.

Last month, Moore was outraged when Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) teamed up with Lightfoot ally Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) to block a vote on the change using a parliamentary maneuver.

Hopkins has said the name change is unpopular and will impact the addresses of residents in his ward who live along Lake Shore Drive. But Moore said there’s been enough debate — it’s time to vote.

“There’s been subject matter hearings on this, everybody had a chance to chime in, everybody had a chance to present proposals, but instead of alternatives and proposals, politics was being played and democracy was shattered at the last City Council meeting,” Moore said.

On Monday, Hopkins told Block Club there were “discussions underway about alternative proposals that could impact the vote on Wednesday,” but he couldn’t be reached for further comment Tuesday.

The name change would affect 17 miles of outer Lake Shore Drive from Hollywood Avenue to East 67th Street.

Believed to be of Haitian descent, DuSable arrived here in 1779.

He settled where the Chicago River and Lake Michigan meet, establishing a trading post and farm before selling the property in 1800 and moving to the port of St. Charles. But DuSable’s role in developing the Chicago River settlement “was little recognized until the mid-20th century,” the proposed ordinance says.

In addition to a school and the DuSable Museum of African American History in Hyde Park, a small monument sits near the DuSable Bridge on Michigan Avenue.

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