Navy Pier as seen from the 23rd floor of The Lake Point Tower
|Location||600 E. Grand Avenue Chicago, Illinois, 60611|
|Architect||Charles S. Frost
|NRHP Reference #||79000825|
|Added to NRHP||September 13, 1979|
|Designated CL||November 14, 1977|
Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot-long (1,010 m) pier on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan. It is located in the Streeterville neighborhood of the Near North Side community area. The Navy Pier currently encompasses more than fifty acres of parks, gardens, shops, restaurants, family attractions and exhibition facilities and is one of the top leisure destination in the Midwest, drawing nearly nine million visitors annually. It is one of the most visited attractions in the entire Midwestern United States and is Chicago's number one tourist attraction.
Navy Pier opened to the public on July 15, 1916. Originally named "Municipal Pier," the pier was built by Charles Sumner Frost, a nationally-known architect, with a design based on Daniel Burham's "Master Plan of Chicago."
Originally the Navy Pier was to be a dock for freights, passenger traffic and a space for indoor and outdoor recreation for the public. Many events were held at the pier, such as expositions, pageants and other types of entertainment. In the summer of 1918 the pier was also used as a jail for draft dodgers.
In 1927, the pier was renamed Navy Pier to honor the naval veterans who served in the First World War.
In 1941, during World War II the pier became a training center for the Navy. About 10,000 people worked, trained and resided there. The pier contained a 2,500-seat theater, gym, 12-chair barber shop, tailor, cobbler shops, soda fountain and a vast kitchen and hospital.
In 1946, as the Navy was winding down from its mission, the University of Illinois at Chicago held classes at the pier. Though the maximum capacity was exceeded the school outgrew the pier and the university relocated to Circle Campus.
After the university left, the Navy Pier became underutilized.
In 1976 the East End buildings were renovated and for a brief period the pier was alive again, home to summer events like ChicagoFest. But maintenance was not done and the pier went into decline.
In 1989, the City of Chicago had the Urban Land Institute (ULI) reimagine uses for the pier. The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) was created; its responsibility was to manage and operate Navy Pier as well as McCormick Place. The MPEA undertook the redevelopment, incorporating some of ULI’s recommendations.
In 1995, Navy Pier was redesigned and introduced to the public as a mixed-use venue incorporating retail, dining, entertainment, and cultural spaces.
Starting in 2014, the redevelopment plan called The Centennial Vision was implemented. The purpose of this plan is to fulfill the mission to keep Navy Pier as a world-class public space and to renovate the pier so it will have more evening and year-round entertainment and more compelling landscape and design features. The Centennial Vision was completed in summer 2016.
Navy Pier attractions include sightseeing tours from companies such as Seadog Ventures, Shoreline Sightseeing cruises and Water Taxi service, and the tall ship "Windy." There are also dinner cruises by Entertainment Cruises on their ships the "Spirit of Chicago," "Odyssey II," and "Mystic Blue." The pier has fireworks on Wednesday and Saturday nights during the summer and Saturday nights during the fall.
Navy Pier hosts the PNC Bank Winter Wonderfest from December through January. There is an indoor ice skating rink as well as shopping and dining in Festival Hall.
Crystal Gardens is a one-acre, botanical garden inside the pier. It is a six-story glass atrium with a 50-foot arched ceiling. Many events are held here.
The Chicago Children's Museum is a part of Navy Pier, with many different exhibits and activities for both children and adults to enjoy while visiting the museum. The Pier also has an IMAX theater.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater, a theater that recreates Shakespeare's productions.
The Pepsi Skyline stage venue is also at the pier. It seats 1,500 and hosts a variety of live events including music, theater, comedy and acrobatic spectacles from summer through early fall.
There is lots of outdoor art such as the anchor from the naval vessel USS Chicago (CA-136/CG-11), which is on display at the far end. Other art includes a statue of actor Bob Newhart on a couch as on The Bob Newhart Show, the Captain On The Helm statue dedicated to maritime captains, and the Crack the Whip sculpture of eight children at play holding hands by J. Seward Johnson Jr.
The Ferris wheel was retired on September 27, 2015. A new model was selected and purchased—the DW60—from Dutch Wheels, the Netherlands-based company that built the pier’s former wheel. The state-of-the-art DW60 is the first and only one of its kind in the U.S. with similar wheels currently in operation in Hong Kong and Baku, Azerbaijan. Significant features include two-sided cars that allow for easy loading and unloading, a fortified structure to withstand winds of 115 miles per hour, and safety glass capable of weathering intense storms. The new model was unveiled on May 27, 2016.
Plans for renovation
Efforts to update Navy Pier for the twenty-first century began on January 13, 2006, when the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority released a proposal for a major renovation of the Pier, which including a monorail, a 260-foot (79 m) spokeless Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, floating hotel, and a water park with a Great Lakes theme. The plan would have included nearly double the current parking and a replacement theater with a greater capacity. At the time of the announcement, a price tag of $2 billion was announced.
Following the reorganization of the agency that runs Navy Pier and McCormick Place, a new study was commissioned to reinvigorate the upgrade process. The new study, by the Urban Land Institute, was released on November 11, 2010, and recommended a more modest set of enhancements aimed at retaining the Pier's role as a public space, rather than turning it into a theme park. Suggested elements include a concert venue, an enlarged Chicago Shakespeare Theater space, new restaurants, a renovated commercial area around the Pier's entrance, and additional park-like features to bring people closer to the lake. More grandiose possibilities, including the enlarged Ferris wheel and a hotel, are mentioned as more remote possibilities.
In March 2012, a competition led to selection of a design concept presented by a team led by James Corner of James Corner Field Operations that focuses on the Pier's role as a waterfront promenade. In 2013 the Authority announced plans to carry out the first elements of a streamlined version of that concept, with reworked streetscape and a wider pedestrian space, moving tour-boat moorings to improve the view from a new central stairway centered on the Ferris wheel. Work began during the winter of 2013–2014, with completion expected by Summer 2015.
A new Ferris wheel for the pier was announced on June 23, 2015. It will be 196 feet (60 m) tall, 46 feet (14 m) taller than its predecessor. Rides will be twelve minutes instead of seven and feature three revolutions. The new wheel has brighter lights and opened in May 2016.
In Popular Culture
- #2 Hyde Park Express (weekday rush hours only)
- #29 State
- #65 Grand
- #66 Chicago
- #124 Navy Pier
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