The Gold Coast's Mariano Park may soon follow the nearby Connors Park in landing a major commercial tenant, and in receiving a major makeover. Earlier this year, the Chicago Park District began to seek bids for the space that Whispers Cafe now occupies, and according to a new blog post from architecture writer Lynn Becker, Gibson's Steakhouse is getting serious about winning the contract. According to Becker, Gibson's has created a shell corporation just for the endeavor and has also developed a proposal for the property, complete with conceptual renderings. A link to the Chicago Park District's page for the concessions contract shows that companies like Shake Shack, the Goddess and Grocer, Bow Truss Coffee and Whispers Cafe (the current concessionaire) have also been eyeing the Mariano Park concession opportunity.
In his post, Becker expresses concern over Gibson's plan for the park, as it appears that the restaurant has no use for the existing pavilion.
And just by glancing at the plan's rendering, it does indeed look like Gibson's could demolish and replace the pavilion with a new structure— similar to what Argo Tea has done in Connors Park . (See update at the bottom of post.)
While the city's handing over of large pockets of public park space for the Obama Presidential Center and George Lucas' Lucas Museum of Narrative Art has garnered the most attention from park activists and the media, the city is slowly transforming several neighborhood parks into small commercial islands. Land use battles are nothing new in Chicago, as there has been plenty of feuding over the Lucas Museum, the Obama Library, a proposed restaurant for Maggie Daley Park and a small popup PNC Bank branch in Grant Park. The new Chicago Riverwalk extension will have commercial vendors, but that has been part of the plan all along and hasn't been a point of contention with residents and activists. However, the transformation of Connors Park and Mariano Park and the possibility of removing existing architectural features would represent a different precedent.
UPDATE: While several companies and organizations are listed on the page regarding this specific concession opportunity, the Chicago Park District has reached out to clarify that some of these companies have only registered to view NOA application and may not necessarily have submitted a bid.
UPDATE: According to Gibson's public relations, their proposal only makes room for a 400 square foot concession area—roughly the same size as the existing space. In addition, Gibson's has indicated that should the company win the contract, the Birch Burdette Long-designed pavilion in the park will be preserved and restored. While the pavilion has seen its better days, Gibson's has committed to restoring it.
UPDATE: Chicago's Bow Truss Coffee has also thrown their name in the hat, and has offered some insight on their plan. The company would preserve the existing concession space and is working on developing partnerships with other local craft food and beverage outfits for the concession opportunity.
We plan to really maintain the landmark structure in a simple classy way as well as focus more on greenery and outdoor seating. We are not proposing construction. The renderings might not be the best vision graphically, but a starting point. Not many in on the bid are local coffee roasters serious about a cafe, we'd like to bring the area great coffee and partner up with other local baked goods, foods and juice vendors. ·Bum Steer: Will the city let Gibson's Steakhouse Ride Herd over Mariano Park?? [ChicagoArchitecture PLUS]
·Mariano Park bid sheet [Chicago Park District]
·Not (Birch Burdette) Long for This World? Century-Old Mariano Park out for Bid [ChicagoArchitecture PLUS]
·Confusion Brews In The Connors Park Argo Tea Experiment [Curbed Chicago]
·Private Use of Public Land: Small Battles Foretell Coming War [Curbed Chicago]