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Chicago Park District is exploring a new boardwalk for North Avenue Beach

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The $10 million project could be completed by 2020—provided a private partner is willing to help pay for it

Flickr Creative Commons/Marco Verch

Big changes are being considered for North Avenue Beach and the Chicago Park District is hoping a new deal with a private concessionaire will help pay the bill. The plans call for the creation of a new boardwalk-type promenade around North Avenue’s ship-shaped beach house currently home to Castaways restaurant. Additional upgrades to the immediate area will include more public seating, concession kiosks, parking spaces, and a revised drop-off circle, reports the Chicago Tribune.

With Castaways’ lease set to expire, the Chicago Park District is looking to sign a new 10-year concessionaire agreement for the lakefront space. Revenue generated from the deal will be used to cover part of the overhaul’s estimated $10 million price tag. The Park District also expects the restaurateur to pay for renovations to the beach house including a new rooftop deck.

The Park District hopes to spruce up the area surrounding the North Avenue beach house.
Flickr Creative Commons/Daniel X. O'Neil

The boardwalk and traffic circle are expected to be completed in 2020 while the additional parking is slated to come online one year sooner. Though the plan aims to create new amenities for beachgoers, improve pedestrian circulation, and cutdown on vehicular congestion, some local park advocates feel that they have been left out of the process.

Juanita Irizarry, executive director of Friends of the Parks, tells the Tribune that her group was similarly left out of talks regarding North Avenue Beach’s Shore Club—a 13,000-square-foot bar and restaurant space that opened this summer near Castaways.

The Park District’s reliance on concessionaires to fund capital improvements to City-owned property is hardly new. The private operator of the newly-opened Theatre on the Lake restaurant funded the $7 million renovation of the 1920s building and is also on the hook to pay rent and share revenue with the Park District for 10 years.

A deal calling for a restaurateur to foot the construction costs for a glassy new restaurant at Chicago’s Maggie Daley Park, however, reportedly fell apart in mid-November. The plan was abandoned after a forced redesign of the eatery slashed its interior space—and likely profit margins—in half.

A rendering of the now-doomed Maggie Daley Park restaurant from 2015.
SPACE Architects