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Landmark Lincoln Park Zoo lion house is getting a $35M makeover

Before work can begin, the zoo will say goodbye to its current pride of lions

A rendering of the new lion enclosure showing an expanded habitat and new viewing wall in place of the existing moat.
Lincoln Park Zoo

While the Kovler Lion House at Lincoln Park Zoo is known for its impressive architecture, brick mosaics, and Guastavino tile ceiling, the historic structure’s animal enclosures were looking cramped and outdated. On Thursday, the zoo announced a $35 million project to bring new, state-of-the-art habitats to the 1912 Dwight H. Perkins-designed landmark.

The renovation will remove the sunken moat on the building’s north side and extend the animal environments up to new glass viewing walls. Inside, the big cats will enjoy additional climbing areas, heating and cooling elements, and even a “food zipline” that can simulate the movement of live prey.

The redesigned facility comes from local architecture firm Goettsch Partners and Seattle-based wildlife exhibit specialist PJA—the same company behind Lincoln Park Zoo’s 2004 Regenstein Center for African Apes.

Inside, the old cubicle-like pens will open up to the new outdoor habitat. The building’s historic tilework will remain.
Lincoln Park Zoo

Once complete, it will accommodate a new pride of lions—including room for potential offspring. Before work can begin, however, Lincoln Park will have to move its current lions to a new home at Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina, Kansas.

“Over the last year or so we have been working with the various species survival plans to find new habitats for the Lion House animals, ” Lincoln Park Zoo’s Jillian Braun told Curbed. “The lions are the last to leave.” Members of the zoo are invited to attend a special goodbye event on Saturday, May 11, from 8 to 10 a.m.

Work on the reimagined Lion House is expected to begin this fall. The exact completion date will be revealed further down the road, according to Braun.

The Kovler Lion House renovation is the final piece of the zoo’s $135 million “Pride of Chicago” capital improvement campaign which began in 2012. Recent projects include a new western gate, macaque forest, seal pool, arctic tundra, penguin cove, family learning center, and a Ross Barney-designed welcome pavilion and visitor center.

An exterior brick mosaic detail on the Kovler Lion House. The structure was designed by Dwight H. Perkins—architect of neary Café Brauer.
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Lincoln Park Zoo

2001 North Clark Street, , IL 60614 Visit Website