• Debra Hammond

That's the Point: latest updates and news

If Ellis Island, why not Promontory Point too?

The National Park Service is restoring, rehabilitating and repairing the historic granite revetment at Ellis Island per the Secretary of the Interior's preservation standards. In fact, the National Park Service has a total of six historic stone revetments and seawalls funded for preservation work. This proves that Federal agencies have the design knowledge, engineering expertise, initiative, ethics and funding to do proper preservation of historic stone revetments.

An evening view from Promontory Point of the Chicago skyline shows exactly why Promontory Point deserves comparable treatment to Ellis Island.

Photo from Promontory Point by David Schalliol

Rapidly dropping lake levels

are now the concern of many. Drought conditions are predicted to bring the Great Lakes back to pre-emergency levels soon. Emergency erosion caused by high lake levels in 2017-2020 at Morgan Shoal and South Shore are being used as the rationale for new construction at Promontory Point. High water levels, flooding and erosion at Promontory Point do not affect Lake Shore Drive, private property or human life. In fact, the limestone revetment still functions. But it is eroding and, at 83 years old, it needs repair and rehabilitation.

Chicago Landmarking of the Point

Many thanks to all of you who wrote letters of support for the recommendation of Promontory Point for Chicago landmarking. We had a tremendous outpouring of support from all over the City. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks posted on its website the written public comments they received, and, wow, there are 90 pages of comments submitted in favor of landmarking the Point!! Read them here--they start on page 33.

In September 2017, the National Register nomination of Promontory Point came before the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and passed unanimously before it went to Springfield and finally Washington DC for final approval and listing on January 19, 2018. The Point, however, was never approved as a Chicago Landmark so Preservation Chicago and the Conservancy are recommending Chicago landmarking of the Point too.

Timely cooperation and collaboration

On August 31, 2021, the US Army Corps of Engineers Chicago (US ACE), the City (CDOT) and the Chicago Park District (CPD)(AKA the partners) met with Promontory Point Conservancy to explain the process of the Chicago Shoreline General Reevaluation Report (GRR) for Promontory Point. The outcome of the meeting was disappointing, bureocratic and unclear. The US ACE insisted this is a "new start" even though funding completes unconstructed work at the Point from 1996: they dismissed all the work the community did from 2000-2006. We were informed all previous design concepts, plans and planning, including the "locally preferred plan" for demoliton of the limestone revetment and new construction of concrete and steel, are off the table and will be reevaluated. The US ACE entertained the possibility that the Conservancy's 2002-2004 preservation design engineering plans and studies -- which all showed repair and rehabilitation feasible, cheaper, more durable and quicker -- might be included in this reevaluation. The US ACE was reluctant to consider any legally mandated preservation work at the Point despite the National Register listing and seems to be bypassing the legal requirement for a separate Section 106 review distinct from and complementary to a NEPA review. The Conservancy will be informed quarterly about GRR progress but will not be allowed to participate in community meetings or design evaluations. Few questions asked by the Conservancy were answered by the partners with any substance or clarity. Near the end of the meeting, a representative of the Park District said that there is an "extra layer of planning with Promontory Point in process", which appeared to belie the US ACE's claim that all plans are off the table and this is a fresh start. Here's the link to watch the recorded meeting:

The password for the recording is QtHS7arG.

While the GRR awaits congressional appropriation in the President's 2021-2022 budget, the Conservancy pursues its legal strategy and its work with local elected officials for preservation of the Point's limestone revetment. Although the Conservancy is beginning to speak with marine engineering and project design firms to begin its own parallel process again, the Conservancy and its supporters still believe this moment is a ripe opportunity for the partners and the community to build upon the work already completed 2000-2006, and to collaborate and cooperate on the preservation work legally required at the Point.

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