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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Promontory Point Repairs Get $5 Million Boost From City As Officials Pledge To Preserve Its Iconic Limestone

The funding kicks off the planning and design process for the Point, which may soon be named a Chicago landmark. City and federal agencies will seek design proposals to preserve its "historic nature" later this year.

People enjoy the warm spring weather at Promontory Point in Hyde Park on April 26, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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HYDE PARK — The city has committed $5 million to design reinforcements to Promontory Point that preserve “its historic nature” and iconic limestone steps, officials announced this week.

The city, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Chicago Park District will seek design proposals for Promontory Point later this year.

The agencies will use $5 million in city capital bonds for the planning and design phases of Promontory Point reinforcements, officials announced Monday. They’ll aim to reduce erosion and storm damage “while preserving the historic nature of the existing structure” through the project.

The Point, which runs from 54th to 56th streets on the lakefront, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Earlier this month, the beloved gathering place took a step toward designation as a Chicago Landmark with approval by a key city commission.

The design for reinforcements will be shared with neighbors through public meetings, officials said.

The Army Corps also received $450,000 in federal funds in December to complete a review of the design once it’s complete, officials said. That review, which was approved by Congress in 2007 with then-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s support, had stalled without funding for 15 years.

Army Corps experts in Seattle and Buffalo — home to the agency’s centers for preservation of historic buildings and Great Lakes coastal engineering, respectively — will complete the review of the design.

“The project partners are confident that the City’s design, coupled with the third-party review, will result in a rehabilitation plan that preserves the limestone and historic character of this important segment of shoreline in a manner that is consistent with the Secretary of Interior Standards for Historic Preservation,” officials said this week.

The future of Promontory Point has been hotly debated for more than two decades, as neighbors have demanded officials preserve the Point’s limestone as they complete shoreline reinforcements through the Shoreline Protection Project.

Promontory Point is one of two unfinished locations that were part of the project’s initial phase, alongside nearby Morgan Shoal.

Park District and Department of Transportation officials said earlier this month they’re “in complete agreement” with advocates on preserving the Point’s limestone. The concrete design used on shoreline projects over the last quarter-century “is no longer relevant,” transportation Deputy Commissioner Dan Burke said.

News about the start of the Point’s design process comes as the Army Corps, the Park District and the Chicago Department of Transportation work to complete a reevaluation study of the shoreline project.

More than 20 lakefront locations from suburban Wilmette to the Indiana border have been reinforced since the shoreline project was funded by Congress in 1996.

The reevaluation study will review shoreline needs along the same stretch, with a focus on areas that either weren’t part of the original project or were rehabbed but still struggle to protect the shoreline, officials said.

The study was fully funded in January 2022 when the federal government matched a $1.5 million city commitment by allotting another $1.5 million. It’s expected to be completed in 2025.

Promontory Point will no longer be included in the study, “allowing the design and construction process to begin sooner,” officials said Monday.

Federal and city officials have extended the deadline for residents to give feedback on where and how shoreline improvements should be made. The public comment period initially ended Jan. 17, but was reopened after neighbors requested more time, Army Corps spokesperson Michael Padilla said.

To comment on the reevaluation study, email The Corps will also create developing a website with more information the study, officials said.

In recent years, officials and residents have repeatedly said reinforcing Chicago’s lakefront is a priority amid worries over the impacts of climate change. High lake levels and severe storms have eroded the existing shoreline and barriers and flooded lakefront communities.

Some South Siders are advocating for the study to result in reinforcements to South Shore’s lakefront, which includes private homes and historical towers south of 71st Street.

The shoreline project offers an chance to “preserve and restore the integrity” of the lakefront beaches, parks, natural areas and other properties from 67th to 79th streets, said Juliet Dervin, a member of the neighborhood’s lakefront erosion task force.

“The task force strongly believes in the importance of quality data, expert insights and community input on Chicago’s shoreline,” Dervin said in a statement.

North Side homes and beaches have also been impacted by high lake levels and extreme weather in recent years. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and other local leaders have praised the study for its potential to bring long-term flooding and erosion solutions to north lakefront communities.

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