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Could Children’s Museum Stay At Navy Pier?

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Chicago Children's Museum

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Will the Chicago Children’s Museum stay at Navy Pier, or will it go?

According to reports Wednesday, the answer seems to be a definite “maybe.”

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s David Roe reports

In a statement reported in the Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business, museum officials say they are discussing the possibility of staying at Navy Pier as an anchor tenant.

While Mayor Richard M. Daley has strongly backed an earlier planned move by the museum to Grant Park, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel has expressed reservations, according to the Tribune.

But while open to talks, the museum is still moving ahead with plans to move to Grant Park, the Tribune reported. The plans are currently being challenged in court.

The City Council voted 33-16 in 2008 to approve the plan to build a new $100 million Children’s Museum at Daley Bicentennial Plaza in Grant Park, over the objections of Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd.)

The vote came after five redesigns for the museum, the last of which called for it to be built mostly underground.

Nonetheless, the vote set the stage for the ongoing court fight over 172 years of legal protections — affirmed by four Illinois Supreme Court rulings — that have kept Grant Park “forever open, clear and free,” as civic leader Montgomery Ward sought.

In January, Navy Pier was leased from the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, or McPier, to newly-formed not-for-profit corporation.

Meanwhile, plans are afoot for a major redevelopment at the Pier. Among the suggestions for redevelopment by the Urban Land Institute in a November report are replacing the iconic Ferris wheel with a larger, year-round “Great Chicago Wheel,” expanding the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and turning the Festival Hall space into a concert venue, an ice skating rink, or a sports facility with changeable flooring.

Working on the assumption that the Children’s Museum would move out, the Urban Land Institute also suggested replacing it with a Kidzania or a Legoland Discovery Centre.

The current design of Navy Pier dates from 1995, when a $200 million redevelopment was completed. The Family Pavilion, Crystal Garden, Ferris wheel and carousel – and the Children’s Museum – opened to much fanfare in the summer of that year, along with the food court and new restaurants. The Shakespeare Theater followed in 1999, and the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows in 2000.

After the 1995 redevelopment, Navy Pier quickly became the state’s top tourist attraction. But McPier officials have said the intention was to refresh the Pier every 10 years, whereas it has now been almost 16.

The institution, originally known as the ExpressWays Children’s Museum, began with two rooms in the Chicago Cultural Center in 1982. It was later housed in Lincoln Park, then in the North Pier Terminal mall on East Illinois Street, before opening with the redeveloped Navy Pier.

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