On August 26, 2012, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley announced plans for the park where a hotly contested children's museum plan had previously been attempted. In 2008, the Chicago City Council had approved a $100 million plan to build the Chicago Children's Museum on the space, but legal contentions were expected to drag on regarding the use of parkland for such a structure.
Preparations for construction began with closures of elements like the Daley Bicentennial field house and areas fenced off in September 2012. By November, the removal of 877 aged crab apple, magnolia, white ash, elm and other varieties of trees began. There were two stated purposes for the tree removal: the removal of the trees and soil would facilitate the repair of the underground East Monroe Street Parking Garage roof; the removal of the trees would make way for a healthier park with a broader variety of plants that were less susceptible to diseases.
Although the park initially had been planned as a pet-friendly zone, the decision was made to forbid dogs before it was opened. In another controversy, 900 mature trees were removed in order for the construction of the park. Notably 1000 young trees were planted to replace the trees that were removed. Only 38 pre-existing trees were planned to survive the construction, while 160 of the removed trees were marked for recycling.