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  • Debra Hammond

Destination Point: A Preservation Approach

Promontory Point Conservancy advocates for a legally mandated preservation approach for the repair and rehabilitation of the historic limestone revetment at the Point. The limestone revetment at the Point has done an outstanding job for its 84-year life and still functions with little care and maintenance in its lifespan. Without much maintenance over its long history, however, it is slowly eroding and needs restoration. The northeast section with the concrete coffins, modifications made in the early 1960s, is deteriorating more rapidly where wave action eroded a small portion of the landfill and the CPD poured concrete filler. Overtopping waves have eroded grass on the immediate landslide of the revetment on the northeast and north sections, and undermined the coffin promonade causing the limestone to tip backward. Along the south stretch, erosion is minimal and the limestone blocks can be repaired-in-place.


We already have a design concept for the Point: the construction of the Point itself, self-evident if you walk the Point. The Point’s revetment was designed 84 years ago to protect parkland behind it from the impacts of wave energy and associated erosion. This ingenious, original design can be repaired and rehabilitated with a preservation approach and does not have to be demolished and replaced with new construction of concrete and steel (the City's "locally preferred plan).


From 2002-2004, the community funded multiple engineering studies to show preservation is doable and may even be cheaper. The studies illustrate different creative approaches to repair-in-place and adaptation for ADA complicance. As shown below, new steel sheet piling with stepped-toe stones, resetting of some stones and substrate repairs for others can be completed as repair-in-place work, certainly along the south stretch of the Point. In other places such as the north stretch, stones can be reset without deconstructing the entire area.


Preservation is "cheaper, stronger and better looking" than demolition and new construction (the City's "locally preferred plan"). In 2002-2004, the community funded its own design engineering studies (2002 Galvin Report, 2003 Shabica-Tjaden-Heiztman Preservation Plan and Cost Estimate, 2004 Kalven Mediator’s Report with Bruxnell) that repeatedly showed that a preservation approach with adaptation for ADA compliance was entirely feasible and significantly cheaper. Our early discussions in 2021 with national marine engineering firms confirm the findings of the 2002-2004 studies, despite additional erosion over the past 17 years, notably:


  • Repair and rehabilitation-in-place is significally cheaper than demolition and new construction of steel and concrete

  • The limestone revetment is more durable with a lifespan of 85 years versus 35 years for concrete and requires less maintenance costs over a longer lifespan. Plus the limestone blocks have already weathered 40 million years, plus or minus

  • Three-quarter of the limestone blocks can be repurposed and reset rather than using all new materials as with the City's "locally preferred plan" of demolition and new construction of concrete and steel. Repurposing existing materials (limestone blocks) does not create the environmental hazards and does not contribute to climate change as the use of concrete for new construction would

  • Construction can be completed quicker as sections could be repaired in place, such as the entire south side, without closing the entire park for 3-5 years as would happen with demolition and new construction (the City's "locally preferred plan")

  • Preservation is the community’s preferred plan because it is aesthetically more pleasing and providing continuous access to the water at a time of higher temperatures and climate changes

  • Creative adaptation of a preservation approach for ADA compliance is also feasible, inclusive and embraced by the community. Thoughtful ADA complaiance would minimize concrete and maximize the existing limestone

  • With a preservation approach, the traditional open swimming practices at the Point will continue and even be enhanced

We also know that these preservation methods can be engineered and executed because of multiple National Park Service projects to repair and rehabilitate historic sea walls and revetments under construction right now. Ellis Island is a premier example of preservation of a historic revetment/sea wall at work.


Preservation with creative ADA adaptation is good for the community. Preservation standards allow for adaptation for ADA compliance. Good preservation must incorporate -- in a harmonious way -- changes for safety and accessibility. If you visit Abraham Lincoln's boyhood home, for example, you will find electric lights throughout that do not destroy the historic nature of the site. At the Point, creative adaptation for ADA compliance offers inventive possibilities for the City and Park District to work with the Conservancy and its engineers to find aesthetically viable ways for people to get to the revetment and the water, and into the water without destroying the historic limestone revetment and its unique aesthetic.


The Conservancy hears from folks in wheelchairs and their families that they want smoother parkland pathways, level entrances to restrooms and easy access to the promenade and the water. A preservation approach promises these solutions. The above illustration offers only a single adaptation for ADA compliance and invites other creative, thoughtful possibilities that minimize concrete and maximze limestone.

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