UPDATE (7/18/13): It's almost here! Here is a FAQ for everything you need to know about the venue. And a guide for those who want to get the most out of a visit to the city.
Update 6/20 - a new video (shot from the center of the lawn) and photos of the nearly completed project are here.
Update 5/13 - some photos from construction at the site are available here
Update 5/1 - more artists renderings from inside the ampitheater via Charter One Pavilion facebook included below (final two images)
For a Chicagoan and die hard Phish fan, this winter has proved to be quite a roller coaster. After weeks of will they/won't they about a seemingly unlikely series of concerts at Northerly Island's Charter One Pavilion, we got an announcement that did not address the rumors of "large capacity event" at the traditionally 7500 seat venue.
Soon after the show was announced, the mainstream press picked up on a proposed expansion that hadn't yet been approved at City Hall. Meanwhile, with venue size in doubt, the Phish Tickets By Mail request period opened, with options of GA Floor and Stands, implying things might in fact be business as usual at the intimate venue.
On Friday, Phish came through by advising on its ticket page that these new lawn seats will only be available through the public onsale -- and at a lower price point as well! That leaves 8,500 up close seats to be used at smaller shows and a huge field in back.
We now have learned -- via a presentation submitted to the city (H/T phantasytour.com and @duanebase) -- what the proposed venue may look like. With limited space on the island to reconfigure, it looks like they may have preserved what makes this venue so special: the unrivaled view of Chicago's skyline. This is a real win for Live Nation who previously had to rely on far out suburban sheds or municipal stadiums to create a venue of this size. Looks like a combination of park-like atmosphere and prime location, without having to invest in a ton of infrastructure.
Some artists renderings and more details below...
Potential for a Soldier Field style lot scene: “With bands like Phish, the fans will be hanging out at the (Soldier Field) parking lots until the last minute before entering the show, and we’ll have some bottleneck when they all come at once.” - Mark Campana of LiveNation
CHICAGO PLAN COMMISSION
DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
MARCH 21, 2013
FOR APPROVAL: LAKE MICHIGAN AND CHICAGO LAKEFRONT PROTECTION ORDINANCE APPLICATION NO. 626
APPLICANT: CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT
LOCATION: 1300 SOUTH LYNN WHITE DRIVE
Pursuant to provisions of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance, Title 16 of the Municipal Code of Chicago, the Department of Housing and Economic Development hereby submits this report and recommendation regarding a proposal subject to the regulations and requirements of the Lake Michigan and Chicago Lakefront Protection Ordinance, as it applies to property located in the Public-Use Zone, for your review and final determination. This application for development approval was filed with the Department of Housing and Economic Development on February 8, 2013.
Proper legal notice of the public hearing for this application before the Plan Commission was published in the Chicago Sun-Times on March 6, 2013; the applicant, the Chicago Park District, was separately notified of this hearing.
The subject property is generally located at 1300 South Lynn White Drive. The Applicant is proposing to renovate and expand the existing temporary and seasonal outdoor concert pavilion, for a period not to exceed ten (10) years, in order to accommodate 8,600 seats, a 70’-tall by 84’-wide stage, approximately 52,000 square feet of open lawn area, eight (8) loading docks and accessory and related event service areas, all within an approximately 6.9-acre footprint of the area more commonly known as Northerly Island. Upon expiration of this ten (10) year period, all facilities subject to this application will be removed and the open space will be fully restored. The applicant is proposing to maintain the current zoning of the property, Planned Development No. 618.
The subject site is located within the Public-Use Zone of the Lake Michigan and Chicago Lakefront Protection District; therefore, the proposed development of the site is regulated by Section 16-4-100 of the Lake Michigan and Chicago Lakefront Protection Ordinance.
The Chicago Park District is the sole owner of the entirety of this approximately 91-acre peninsula, located south of the Adler Planetarium and Museum Campus, more commonly known as Northerly Island; the use of which for open space and public gathering has been uninterrupted since 2003. The portion of Northerly Island subject to this application currently contains an approximately 4.7-acre concert pavilion. The Chicago Park District has operated this 8,000-seat facility since June 2005. The venue is currently improved with bleacher seating areas and 52,000 square feet of open lawn area which surrounds a 40’-tall by 84’-wide stage, behind which is a single loading dock and accessory and related event service areas.
SITE AND AREA DESCRIPTION
The subject property is located within Chicago’s Near South Side Community Area and the 4th Ward; but, not within the boundaries of a Tax Increment Finance District. The surrounding property is all contained within Plan Development No. 618.
As previously noted, the subject property is situated within the boundaries of the Public-Use Zone of the Lake Michigan and Chicago Lakefront Protection District; however, it is not located within the boundaries of a Chicago Landmark District nor does it contain any designated local or national landmark structure or site.
The site is served by the Chicago Transit Authority’s #146 (Inner Drive/Michigan Express) bus route, having multiple stops located within approximately ½-mile of the site.
The specific project proposed for consideration calls for the renovation and expansion of the existing temporary and seasonal outdoor concert pavilion, for a period not to exceed ten (10) years, in order to accommodate 8,600 seats, a 70’-tall by 84’-wide stage, approximately 52,000 square feet of open lawn area, eight (8) loading docks and accessory and related event service areas, all within an approximately 6.9-acre footprint. Structured seating currently reaches a height of 24’; in the new design, stands will vary from 24’ to 38’.
In addition to the proposed enlargement, the entire seating and performance area is being rotated so that the audience will face the downtown skyline and loading areas can more directly connect to the existing South Lynn White Drive. Pedestrian and bicycle pathway connections to the remainder of Northerly Island and the mainland will be maintained after enhancement and slight reconfiguration necessary in order for users to be able to circumnavigate the new venue, as detailed in the accompanying Site and Landscape Plans.
The stage’s floor and fabric roof; the grandstand seats, decking, railings and covered areas; and, the artist, restroom and catering trailers can all be dismantled and removed at the end of each season, which runs from early June through late September and includes approximately 20 events per year. The support structure of the grandstand, along with the office, medical/storage and ticket sales trailers will remain year round and a fence will be installed surrounding the entire venue subject to this application. Upon expiration of this ten (10) year period, all facilities and hardscape improvements subject to this application will be removed, pursuant to the 2011 Chicago Park District Plan for Northerly Island.
The total project cost is estimated at $6,100,000 and the applicant anticipates it will generate 32 construction jobs and two permanent jobs once complete. Construction is anticipated to begin in March 2013 and the site is expected to be ready for use in June 2013.
The location of the performance and special event venue on the island is carefully situated to allow for great sightlines and maximize skyline views in an intimate setting. Views of Lake Michigan, Soldier Field, the Adler Planetarium and the sunset, with the Chicago skyline in the background, come together with the design to make the pavilion a place of distinction. The site itself will be enhanced with landscaping, street furniture and lighting to create a sense of place. The stage, grandstands and other temporary structures can be removed at the end of each season.
Native plantings will be provided onsite, to support migratory and local birds, as well insect populations. These plantings will reflect the typology of flora that would have been present along the Lake Michigan shoreline prior to the widespread urban development found there today. A modified landscape and grading plan to maintain areas for lawn seating is proposed; this includes reconfiguring pathways and minimizing hills to accentuate the view corridors from Northerly Island to downtown.
Vehicle access is not being addressed as a part of this plan; no existing roadway or parking lot is being reconstructed by this proposal. Car parking areas in the existing metered parking lot to north of the subject property will be slightly restriped but will have the same general parking arrangements as currently exists; the existing staff parking lots will be maintained, as well. Additional off-site parking will be made available in the existing parking structure located beneath Soldier Field; trolley service will be made available to bring patrons from Soldier Field to the concert pavilion. Bike riders will be still be able to make use of the pathways along the island, and will be able to access the proposed project with their bicycles; sufficient bicycle parking will be available. Pedestrians will still be able to access this area, and the island as a whole, from Solidarity Drive to the north. Access to the field house will also be unaffected by this project.
Permeable pavers and compacted stone will be used in the pedestrian walking areas within the subject site and rainwater will be both directed to open green areas and bio-swales in order to be returned to the soil and discharged directly into Lake Michigan.
Per Section 17-6-0204 of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance, the size, location and design of all elements of this proposal, along with all other associated work contained in this application, has been expressly approved by the Chicago Park District. The concert pavilion renovations have been designed to comply with all other requirements of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance, per Section 17-6-0204; as well as, the parameters of Plan Development No. 618.
The Department of Housing and Economic Development has reviewed the project materials submitted by the applicant and has concluded that this proposal would be in compliance with the applicable Policies of the Lakefront Plan of Chicago and the Purposes of the Lake Michigan and Chicago Lakefront Protection Ordinance, as they apply to development in the Public-Use Zone, specifically:
• Policy No. 1 (Complete the publicly owned and locally controlled park system along the entire Chicago lakefront) – The site is located entirely within the Public-Use Zone and already owned by the Chicago Park District.
• Policy No. 2 (Maintain and enhance the predominantly landscaped, spacious and continuous character of the lakeshore parks) – The Northerly Island concert pavilion project will enhance the landscape on, and navigability of, the peninsula while improving the publically accessible music and presentation venue.
• Policy No. 3 (Continue to improve the water quality and ecological balance of Lake Michigan) – This proposal calls for the use of best management practices to create bio-swales and other natural infiltration systems to reduce the amount of storm runoff flowing into the City’s sewer system.
• Policy No. 4 (Preserve the cultural, historical and recreational heritage of the lakeshore parks) – The Northerly Island concert pavilion project will add to the cultural, historical and recreational heritage of the City’s lakefront park system by enhancing the open space and this unique recreational feature while maintaining existing scenic vistas and access to Lake Michigan.
• Policy No. 5 (Maintain and improve the formal character and open water vista of Northerly Island with no new above-ground structures permitted) – This proposal calls for the replacement of the existing concert pavilion, in use since 2005, with an updated system that will be used seasonally and completely remove after ten (10) years; the presence of which does not unreasonably hinder or block usage of the lakefront on Northerly Island.
• Policy No. 6 (Increase the diversity of recreational opportunities while emphasizing lake-oriented leisure time activities) – The proposed concert pavilion renovations will enhance the diversity of recreational opportunities by expanding the available scope of concerts and other special events that can broaden the cultural reach of the Chicago Park District for more residents to enjoy the schedule activities and the lakeshore park system passively or via the trail system for bikers, walkers and runners, which will meander through the peninsula without damaging the landscape. The new site lines and elevation changes will allow for enhanced views of the lake and downtown skyline.
• Policy No. 7 (Protect and develop natural Lakeshore park and water areas for wildlife habitation) – The proposed Northerly Island pavilion improvements will not hinder the evolution of the natural wildlife, landscaping or other ecological life of the lakefront.
• Policy No. 8 (Increase personal safety) – The provision of improved and widened pathways, clearer sight lines and what is expected to be an enhanced popular amenity will attract more people to this open space and establish a safer means of traversing and monitoring activity throughout Northerly Island.
• Policy No. 13 (Ensure all port, water supply and public facilities are design to enhance lakefront character) – The improvements to Northerly Island will provide unique, destination-oriented, site-specific recreational features that are designed to attract residents and tourists from throughout the region to this new and more lively recreational area along the lakefront.
• Policy No. 14 (Coordinate all public and private development within the water, park and community zones) – This project, being entirely contained within the Public (Park) Use Zone created by the Lake Michigan and Chicago Lakefront Protection Ordinance, will require a review of the proposal by the Chicago Plan Commission which will ensure proper coordination of this project with the community, appropriate regulatory agencies and other interested parties.
With respect to the Policies and Purposes not enumerated here, the Department of Housing and Economic Development has determined that they are either not applicable to development in the Public-Use Zone or that the proposed project will not have a detrimental effect on the Lake Michigan shoreline or any wildlife habitats therein. The proposed project also does not contemplate the introduction of new roadways directly connecting to the lakefront, does not reduce existing open space and does not interfere with existing access to, or use of, Lake Michigan and its park system.
In addition, the public infrastructure facilities and City services are adequate to serve the proposed development and the project does comply with the requirements for access in case of fire and other emergencies. The proposed project has been reviewed by the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities and the Department of Transportation and all requested changes have been made. Copies of this application have been circulated to other City departments and agencies and no comments have been received which have not been addressed in the application.
Based on the foregoing, the Department of Housing and Economic Development recommends that this application, being in conformance with the provisions of the Lake Michigan and Chicago Lakefront Protection Ordinance, be approved, subject to compliance with the Site and Landscape Plans dated March 21, 2013, and presented before you today.
Bureau of Planning and Zoning
Department of Housing and Economic Development