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An Evolving Plan for the Point

From the Community Task Force for Promontory Point. Save the Point, 1642 E. 56th Street, #100, Chicago, Illinois, 60637. Jack Spicer, 773 312-5476. Post comments on line at

several panels: Point  Task Force brochure May 2003

(A better view of the section plan below is further down.)

Generalized concept cross-section. Heitzman-Tjaden. Compliments of the Task Force. For changed version see the July 13 plan.

Heitzman-Tjaden drawing, as reproduced in Hyde Park Herald, March 26, 2003. Note blow-up of north transition ramp and stairs promenade and water access.


Promontory Point in Burnham Park

54th to 57th Streets in Chicago, Illinois

March 12, 2003 – Preliminary for Review [basics of text without drawings or pictures] [Heitzman-Tjaden]

The Hyde Park Community’s Proposal for the Preservation, Restoration and Enhancement of the Historic Stepped Limestone Revetment System at Promontory Park

Problems Identified

Existing shoreline protection needs repair and/or replacement
Shoreline was badly repaired in the 1960s with rubble mounds creating unattractive appearance
Some wood piling has rotted, allowing protection to be displaced
Shoreline is not accessible to persons with disabilities
Chronology of Proposed Solutions

[Official determination of need]

Chicago Shoreline Protection Commission "Recommendations for Shoreline Protection and Recreational Enhancement," Final Report, May, 1988: Rebuild 1800 ft. of edge south of Promontory Point … Step-Stone and Sheetpile Wall…."

Chicago Park District "Shoreline Protection and Recreational Enhancement," 1989: repair step-stone revetments by using steel sheet piling and restore Promontory Point to its original revetment structure to be compatible with the landward improvements then being made under direction of Alfred Caldwell (p. 49)

U.S. Corp of Engineers "Shoreline Reconstruction Plans for Chicago," 1993: "Newly constructed step stone revetments would use steel sheet piles to anchor the stone steps." (p. 8); "The recommended step stone plan will also maintain safe access to the shoreline while preserving its historical and aesthetic value."

Memorandum of Agreement for the Illinois Shoreline Erosion Interim 3 Project among the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Illinois Historic Preservation Officer, 1993: "…construction and rehabilitation of step-stone revetment along five (5) reaches of the Lake Michigan shoreline within the City of Chicago over a 15 year period."

House Document 103-302, "A Letter from the Chief of Engineers, Department of the Army Dated April 14, 1994, submitting a Report with Accompanying Papers and Illustrations," 1994: "The selected plan (stepstone revetment) will not have an adverse impact on archaeological or historic properties….Construction of the selected plan would involvement of substantial quantities of quarry stone. Stone could be transported to the site via barge or truck….Restoration of the shoreline would insure continued use of the lakefront for sport fishing, golfing, sunbathing, swimming, and other recreational activities. It would also maintain the aesthetic quality of the lake Michigan shore." (p. 104)

Corps of Engineers Environmental Assessment on Proposed Shoreline Protection Measures, 2001: "Locally Preferred Plan provides for reconstruction of the shoreline using stair-step (or "step-stone") design similar to the original design…steel sheet pile wall backed by batter piles … between 54th and 57th street…driving new H piles to support a new concrete promenade…constructing new reinforced concrete slabs, steps, and wave deflectors."

City of Chicago memorandum dated 1 May 2001 in response to comments from the public, 2001: Improvement to Corps of Engineers Plan, 2001: These improvements included "vertical concrete surfaces to be given a rougher texture, drainage gap concrete areas will be smaller, joints in concrete will be staggered, open water swim access will be designated by a line of buoys, revetment height will be reduced and tapered so that a view of the lake won’t be impeded."

STS scheme, 1998, as documented in their drawings dated July 31, 2001: same as outlined in the Corps of Engineers Environmental Assessment Document.

Hyde Park Community’s Proposal, 2002-03
Galvin Coastal Engineer’s analysis:

Step-stone areas: remove limestone blocks and set on grass temporarily, install new wood piles with steel channel wales and batter piles, install steel piling inward where required to eliminate erosion under limestone blocks, repair bedding stone, reset blocks, replace broken or missing blocks
Concrete platform areas: remove limestone blocks and set on grass temporarily, install sheet pile partition at landward side of concrete platform, grout cavities under concrete platform, install bedding stone on landward side of concrete platform with filter cloth, reset blocks, replace broken or missing blocks

Heitzman-Tjaden Architects preservation and accessibility design:
Enumeration of Features by Segment

Segment NX

Recently completed concrete revetment to the north

Segment A

Transition segment between new concrete and restored stone revetment

Integrates storm drainage gap with accessible ramp to promenade level from park

Maintains natural features of Promontory Point

Segment B

Unique water recreation feature of submerged beach

Accessible ramp and stairs from promenade level to submerged beach

Stairs for access from park to promenade level

Segment C

Concrete platform is repaired and retained, voids grouted full

New stone edge

Exposed wood piling in front of sheet piling

Stairs and accessible ramp integrated into revetment for access from field house to promenade level

Segment D

Stairs from meadow to promenade level

Exposed wood piling in front of sheet piling

Stairs integrated into revetment from promenade level to water for access

Segment E

New accessible promenade

Preserved step stone revetment

Segment F

Transition segment between new concrete and restored stone revetment

Integrates storm drainage gap with accessible ramp to promenade level from park

Segment SX

Concrete promenade and revetment currently under construction to the south

Program criteria:

Maintain use of limestone blocks throughout for shoreline protection
Provide shoreline protection that is structurally sound
Provide shoreline protection that is cost effective
Provide gravity and surface storm drainage system from lower Lake Shore Drive into Lake Michigan
Adhere to the Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation and approved by Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Retain and preserve as much of existing sound step stone revetment as possible
Provide identical physical appearance to existing step-stone design, including out-of-plumb and out-of-level stone blocks
Build no higher in elevation than current elevation
Allow continuous promenading all around at lowest level
Provide easy access to and from water for swimming or wading
Provide varied aesthetic experiences along length of shoreline
Provide equivalent experiences and activities for persons with disabilities
Provide fully accessible paths with gentle slopes for persons with disabilities
Allow safe approach to water’s edge in all seasons
Provide some more spacious congregation areas near the water for informal gatherings
Provide at least one example of large scale public art
Provide uncomplicated and low-tech future maintenance systems
Restore Alfred Caldwell landscape plan
Process for developing design

Compiled functional criteria from diverse sources
City of Chicago stated goals
Neighborhood task force
Neighborhood accessibility committee headed by Martha Younger-White, Illinois Department of Human Services, Bureau of Accessibility and Safety Standards
Consultation with Marcia Bristow, CEO of the Access Living Center of Chicago and Former Chairwoman of the National Council on Disability, appointed by President Clinton
Consultation with John McGovern, Executive Director of the Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association and served on the Access Board committee negotiating design guidelines for outdoor recreation areas
Consultation with Robin Jones from the Great Lakes Accessibility and IT Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago
Review of the Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation
Consultation with Mike Jackson at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Consultation with Julia Bachrach at the Chicago Park District
Consultation with David Bahlman, Executive Director of Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois
Produced schematic design
Sought approval for design with diverse sources
Accessibility experts
Stone fabricators (van Etten)
Stone Masons (Weese)
Galvin Coastal Engineering
Produced comprehensive presentation to public and city departments

Structural solution:
Galvin’s scheme, but using steel sheet piling with either stone blocks or wood piling driven in front; leading stone at edge conceals top of sheet piling
Concrete platform is repaired and preserved
Existing step stone revetment on south preserved
Accessibility solution:
Ramps at gentle slope (1" in 20") allowing access to promenade level from both north and south ends of the Point.
Textured and colored concrete path at promenade level for wheelchairs set 4" lower than the stone edging to provide detectable warnings
Seating locations distributed along the path
Concrete ramp into water on north side of Point for swimming access
Long and shallow concrete steps into water
Handrails along retaining wall sides
Recreational Enhancements
Open water swimming access on both north and south
Swimming and wading possible for persons with disabilities
Resting and viewing points
Accessible path at high point of Segment C
Cues for blind and vision impaired persons
Visual improvements
Restoration of Alfred Caldwell’s objective of a natural setting
Environmental Enhancements
Reused existing structural systems to large extent
Minimal disruption to existing environment
Minimal disruption to animal habitat
Little waste of existing materials
Little new energy used for construction or embodied in materials
Maintains all existing trees – none required to be transplanted
Can be constructed in small segments
Constructability considerations:
Light equipment required to construct
Small cranes can be positioned on top of existing promenade and work from center to both ends, repairing and setting stones as it moves
No need for large stockpiles of materials, since most is being reused locally
Costs considerations:
Can be phased easily by segment
Reuses most materials
Can use unskilled labor for most work
Does not require highly refined surveying work for placement of materials
Maintenance considerations:
Steel sheet piling will be longer lasting than wood
Stone revetment is "forgiving" in that it allows some movement to occur in system to adjust to impact stresses
Movement of elements of system is tolerated because promenade access level is a "free floating" reinforced concrete slab between rows of stones
Future repairs do not require costly materials
Repairs would be localized
System has redundant structure so that repair delay will not affect stability
Longevity considerations:
Step stone system will last at least as long as current step stone protection
Steel sheet piling will have longer life than wood piling
Limestone is a longer lived material than concrete

Shoreline Protection Options:


Rubble Mound

Step Stone Revetment

Rubble Mound Breakwater