Credit: Photos: Larry Evans/Black Star
Left: Kevin Gujral, Ed Uhlir, and Jim Conrath stand in front of what may be the most recognizable part of the park: the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Right: The Crown Fountain projects faces of Chicagoans, who “spit” water on passers-by. The fountains attract children to play in the shallow water.
“The most difficult part was keeping up with program improvements,” said Conrath. “With continued contribution of capital, additional elements were created and included in the overall undertaking, often requiring modification of work completed or underway. The team required flexibility and timely distribution of information and changes to minimize disruption and subsequent cost.”
It took teamwork to coordinate and complete the various elements going into the park's structure and design. “The PBC hired O'Brien Kreitzberg (a division of URS) in July 2000 to act as the owner's representative,” said Gujral. “The relationship between the city's existing project management team and design team and the PBC-led team was initially strained, which is understandable during a time of transition. However, we pulled together as a team, and at the end of the day it was this team that successfully completed the project.”
The city used no property tax dollars to pay for the park, though some money normally used for public works projects did contribute. The final price tag was $475 million, and its completion was four years behind schedule—the city held a gala opening in July 2004. Some say that this money was not spent wisely. According to the city's budget office, the city's portion is $270 million—most coming from bonds backed by revenue from the underground parking garages and some from the Central Loop TIF Fund. But the park also brings revenue to the city that is difficult to quantify, both in tourism dollars and the increases in area real estate values.
“We're setting the standard for other cities,” said Uhlir, referring to the public-private partnership that was undertaken.
“The most rewarding thing for all involved was the eventual overwhelming approval of the park by the people, the pundits of Chicago, and the various state, national, and international communities,” said Conrath.
And the one-year-old park is already an award-winner, many times over. In November 2004 the U.S. Mayor's Business Council recognized the park as the public-private partnership project of the year. The park has won an Illinois Engineering Excellence Award and several architecture awards. And in May, Uhlir was awarded the 2005 Barrier-Free America Award by the Paralyzed Veterans of America for the park's accessibility. As visitors—and public works professionals—visit this famed park, more awards are sure to follow.