Written by Mike Foley
I just visited the newly christened Pritzker Park at State & Van Buren in Chicago. While it’s nice to have a little more green space in the Loop, it does feel like there is something missing…people! The absence of any seating definitely drives away the lunch crowd. A few people were sitting on concrete ledge along the State Street sidewalk. They didn’t look comfortable. I am told that the outfit that provided the bus shelters will be providing seating eventually and that should help. Much of the concrete appears to be permeable, adding a nice environmental touch.
OK, the park doesn’t exactly inspire awe, but in fairness, I don’t think it was ever intended to do so. I think the intent was to give State Street denizens some desperately needed outdoor space beside sidewalks. And although it’s been a recent haven for panhandlers and swarms of pigeons, the corner has potential. Situated between the Harold Washington Library and John Marshall Law School and across the street from DePaul and Robert Morris College it may well become a popular outdoor spot. It also offers a smaller venue for free concerts and cultural events.
But the spot is not without some challenges. It’s been a magnet for vagrants for years. The southwest corner of the park directly faces about twenty dumpsters from the Plymouth Restaurant. Without some form of screening, it’s hard to imagine that area of park flourishing. Some also worry the huge student population, coupled with so much concrete landscaping may inadvertently result in the Pritzker ‘Skateboard” Park. I’m uncertain if the park will receive 24/7 security once the full amenities are in place, but it would seem a prudent step to keep the park from being hopelessly marred by graffiti and vandalism. Critics question the advisability of locating a park next to a major L-stop, and the prevalence of concrete landscaping, but it’s impossible to make everyone happy. I’m glad to see a new park amidst the hustle and bustle of State Street – properly maintained, it may become a terrific addition to the State Street cultural landscape.