Press Release
March 23, 2016

Mayor Emanuel, Senator Durbin Open New Section of Lakefront at Fullerton Avenue Beach, Stabilizing Shoreline and Creating Nearly Six Acres of New Park Land

Project Includes Separated Lakefront Bike and Pedestrian Paths at Fullerton Avenue
Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Senator Richard Durbin, Alderman Michele Smith, Chicago Park District Superintendent Michael Kelly, Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today officially announced the completion of the shoreline restoration project at Fullerton Avenue Beach, which includes the creation of 5.8 acres of new park space and a new split lakefront trail with separate biking, running, and pedestrian paths at Fullerton Avenue.

“The recreational heart of our lakefront is the Lakefront Trail – an 18-mile pathway connecting lakefront communities from Edgewater to South Shore. Creating new green space and allowing for safer and easier access to our natural resources has been part of my work since I was first elected to Congress,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This ongoing partnership between the federal government and the City improves and protects Chicago’s shoreline, allowing for an expansion of Lincoln Park and creation of split Lakefront paths on this busy shoreline park.”

As part of the Chicago Shoreline Protection Project, the City, in partnership with the Chicago Park District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, have stabilized the shoreline at the Fullerton Avenue Beach, which will make the Theater on the Lake facility even more convenient and attractive to residents who would like to enjoy activities at the facility and on the lakefront. The shoreline restoration included the replacement of the failed revetment with a steel and concrete revetment designed to manage wages.

“Chicago’s shoreline and its lakefront paths are some of the most unique and enjoyable assets the city offers to residents and visitors. Today’s opening is the latest example of the federal and local government working together to build the infrastructure needed to keep the lakefront trail protected and accessible,” said Senator Durbin. “More pedestrians, runners, and cyclists will now be able to use the lakefront in a safer way than ever before. I commend the Army Corps, the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District for their hard work and look forward to continuing this important collaboration.”

A failed beach cell has been converted into new park land, adding 5.8 acres of park land in an area that is popularly attended by residents and visitors. The existing lakefront trail has been relocated and split, providing separate paths for faster moving and slower moving trail users, easing path traffic and improving safety. While this phase of the project is substantially complete, additional landscaping will be completed this spring.

“This project provides critical storm damage protection to the Lake Michigan shoreline, our adjacent parkland and Lake Shore Drive,” said Commissioner Scheinfeld. “The deteriorating shoreline once posed a serious threat to our lakefront infrastructure and water supply. This project will secure the shoreline for decades to come.”

The second phase of the project involves the conversion of the historic Theater on the Lake building at Fullerton Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. This popular attraction will be converted from a summer-only programming site to a year-round program and event facility. This expansion is part of the Mayor's commitment to build and reinvigorate arts programming in City neighborhoods while elevating and expanding neighborhood cultural assets as called for in the Chicago Cultural Plan.

"The lakefront is one of Chicago’s most valuable resources. It is visited by hundreds of thousands each year, as a place of both active and passive recreation," said Superintendent Kelly. "We are pleased to work with the City and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to sustain this natural treasure."

The Theater on the Lake conversion will include a complete renovation of the interior theater space, which will be equipped with a new performance space, lighting and sound systems. The building will be conditioned to operate year-round and will be equipped with new dressing rooms, green rooms and event space in the northern half of the pavilion. A concession space with outdoor seating and public toilets are also included. The main entry to the theater will be from the lakeside with a glass enclosed lobby facing the lake. Other improvements to the site will include a new vehicular drop off, loading access and an outdoor patio with views of Lake Michigan. The Park District is currently reviewing proposals for the conversion, and work is expected to start later this year to ensure that completion coincides with the Fullerton Revetment project. Theater on the Lake will continue to perform in neighborhood parks as part of Mayor Emanuel’s Night Out in the Parks until the conversion is complete.

"The lakefront is a jewel in the 43rd Ward and our entire City which hosts tens of thousands of joggers, bikers, bladers and walkers each summer," said Alderman Smith. "The additional 6 acres of open space is a welcome enhancement for residents and guests who flock to the Lakefront each year. I want to commend the Mayor for his vision and thank him for working with us to create one of the first divided bike and pedestrian paths in the city."

Today’s opening of new bike and pedestrian paths are part of the Chicago Shoreline Protection Project, which began in 2000. As of today, 21 of the 23 segments of the 9.5-mile project have been substantially completed. Among those completed most recently are a new revetment at Montrose Harbor completed in 2015 and the 43rd to 45th Street revetment completed in 2013.The new designs maintain safe access to the shoreline while preserving its historical and aesthetic value. The total cost of the project is now estimated at more than $500 million, funded by the USACE, City of Chicago, Chicago Park District and the State of Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The Fullerton shoreline protection project cost $32 million and was paid for by the Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago.

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Fullerton Park Before and After