CHICAGO (CBS) — Ogden Plaza Park should be an oasis of tranquility amid the concrete canyon that is Streeterville; but residents have said it’s becoming an eyesore, a health hazard, and is unsafe.
Landscape architect Bernard Jacobs said the planters on top of the walls at Ogden Plaza were supposed to have plants cascading over them, but the planters now sit empty, except for a few creeping vines.
“There were 47 different kinds of perennials and wildflowers in this garden,” he said.
Instead of plants gracing the walls, the plaza is marred by graffiti. For Jacobs, it’s tough to see.
“It’s like watching your kids become juvenile delinquents,” he said.
It’s personal for Jacobs, because he was the landscape architect for Ogden Plaza Park when it opened in 1993.
What once was akin to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon is now more like the infamous city itself.
“We’ve seen drug dealers over there,” Jacobs said.
It’s not just dealers and junkies causing problems in Ogden Plaza. When CBS 2 stopped by recently before dawn, the plaza looked more like a flophouse, with people sleeping anywhere they could.
One man relieved himself in the empty planter at the base of one of the plaza’s trees, and a woman sitting in the park after dark appeared to be suffering from some type of illness.
Rats also were seen scurrying about as if they owned the place.
“It’s all so frustrating because it’s a reflection of our city,” Streeterville resident Matthew Neistat said.
Neistat said residents and tourists in the area are essentially scared of Ogden Plaza Park.
“In the morning, these tourists are staring at our disgusting park, and then at night they’re walking through it, and who knows what they’re thinking?” he said.
Christian Hansen, managing director of the Loews Chicago Hotel, which overlooks the park, said the city needs to completely renovate the plaza.
“You can put a nice pot of flowers over here, but that’s not going to really correct what’s going on with this park. It’s no longer usable,” He said.
Jacobs disagreed. He believes the park he designed doesn’t need a complete makeover, but does need to be refreshed. He said it’s the legal responsibility of the hotels and other businesses surrounding the park to get it done. He said they should be ashamed.
“I’m embarrassed, so they should be embarrassed,” he said.
Although it is a city park, the Chicago Park District said under terms of an agreement it is the sole responsibility of the surrounding businesses that make up the Cityfront Center East Maintenance Association to clean and maintain the park.
Members of the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents said members of the association have tried to get things going, to no avail.
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said funds are committed, but they have yet to get cooperation from the owners of the parking garage which the park sits on top of.
The garage operator did not respond to requests for comment.