The Morgan Shoal Revetment Reconstruction Project is located along the Lake Michigan shoreline between 45th and 51st Streets.  The project study area is located within the larger 650-acre Burnham Park which stretches along the Chicago lakefront from the Museum Campus south to Jackson Park. This project is the latest phase of the Chicago Shoreline Protection Project, a long-term shoreline reconstruction project undertaken by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Chicago Park District (CPD), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).  In conjunction with its partners, the Public Building Commission of Chicago (PBC) is managing the development of planning, design, procurement, and construction of the Morgan Shoal Revetment Reconstruction project.

The PBC, in collaboration with CPD, CDOT and USACE, has engaged a project team led by SmithGroup to design the revetment reconstruction. The proposed design for the project will reflect the conceptual designs that resulted from the 2014-2015 Framework Plan process. While some refinements to the shore protection arrangement are anticipated, the coastal structures will include a combination of rubble mound and dynamic revetment, stepped stone blocks, and a transition section of steel sheet pile and concrete revetment to connect to the existing structure at 51st Street. The project will add up to approximately seven acres of new usable parkland by providing more width to the narrowest parts of the park. The additional space will allow for a dual trail system and will create separation between park users and DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

The defining feature of the project segment is the near-offshore geologic formation known as the Morgan Shoal. One of many shoals in the area, the Morgan Shoal is a bedrock formation of dolomite limestone formed 300 million years ago that protrudes almost to the surface of Lake Michigan. The shallow water depths reduce the incident wave conditions and the shallow bedrock makes sheet-pile-based shoreline protection systems difficult to construct, therefore, it presents an opportunity for alternative shore protection measures.

The design is intended to provide additional passive and active recreational opportunities, as well as a new comfort station, improved viewpoints at 47th Street and 51st Street, and enhanced connectivity for trail users. A balance will be struck between traditional park green space and new, diverse natural areas supporting indigenous flora and fauna, particularly migratory birds.

The Morgan Shoal reconstruction will provide a degree of coastal protection and flood damage reduction in keeping with the broader Chicago Shoreline Protection Project. This project will also provide an important link along the Lake Michigan waterfront to create an active, interesting, and educational place for people to visit, in keeping with the 1999 Burnham Park Framework Plan and the 2015 Morgan Shoal Framework Plan

Contract Information

Architect of Record – SmithGroup

Procurement Details

To view the Morgan Shoal procurement details Click here

FAQ – Physical Infrastructure

1. What are the primary proposed shoreline protection features?
o The majority of the new shoreline protection will be constructed with large armor stone. In addition, there will be a portion of smaller cobble (“pebble”) dynamic revetment, and an ADA accessible transition to the existing steel/concrete revetment at 51st Street.

2. What are the plans with all the existing limestone blocks?
o To the extent technically possibly, many of the existing limestone blocks will be salvaged and re-used in areas where they will be visible to Chicago Park District (“CPD”) park users. Some of the blocks will become seating, while others will be incorporated into a stepped feature behind the dynamic revetment.

3. Can the entire restoration be done with existing limestone, and make it look like steps?
o No. This area has been heavily degraded by storms and has had several prior repairs. There is insufficient material for the entire project to be re-built with existing limestone, and many of the existing stones are damaged. However, many of the existing blocks will be re-used away from direct wave attack.

4. Will any of the new shoreline protection block Morgan Shoal?
o No. The proposed project does not include placing any fill material on any part of the Shoal.

5. From these various viewpoints, will I be able to see the lake: Driving on DuSable Lake Shore Drive, walking or riding a bike on the lakefront trail?
o Yes. The new shoreline protection will be higher than the existing shoreline. Views from certain areas along DuSable Lake Shore Drive (DLSD) roadway will vary. The Lakefront Trail (“LFT”) will be raised in places to provide views over the new shoreline protection.

6. Will the project add parking?
o No. The project area does not include parking currently and there is no vehicular access on the east side of DLSD. No new parking is anticipated.

7. No new parking is proposed as part of this project, what are the opportunities for me to bring my family to this park?
o There is existing close proximity public parking west of DLSD at 47th Street and at 51st Street.

8. How does this project relate to the conditions and proposed project at Promontory Point?
o The Morgan Shoal Revetment Reconstruction Project is completely separate from Promontory Point, which is a Chicago City Landmark designed by Alfred Caldwell and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The proposed design for Morgan Shoal is site-specific, and a future separate project at Promontory Point will be initiated at some time in the future, which will adhere to the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring, and Reconstructing Historic Buildings.

9. Are any new bridges proposed to improve access to this part of the Lakefront?
o Not at this time. The existing bridges at 47th Street and 51st Street will remain as they currently are.

10. Does the project protect / enhance the existing pebble beach?
o Yes. The proposed project will expand the zone of “dynamic revetment” and add approximately 2 acres of cobble-size material. Existing pebble material that can be salvaged, will be incorporated into the new dynamic revetment.

11. Will the project add more sheet pile and concrete?
o Yes. At the south end of the project area (51st Street) there will be about 500 feet of steel / concrete ADA accessible revetment that will connect to the existing structure and create a smooth transition for access.

FAQ – Recreation / Landscape Features

12. What water-recreation will be permitted at the project site
o That activity is still to be determined.

13. Will swimming be permitted?
o This area is not a designated swimming area or planned to be a beach.

14. Will the Park District staff this area with lifeguards?
o No. The Chicago Park District has no plans for this area to be staffed with lifeguards but will contain life rings for emergency purposes will be added.

15. Will the existing washroom building be replaced?
o Yes. There will be a new comfort station building provided with ADA accessible facilities and a shade structure. The comfort station will be an all-gender restroom with high privacy toilet partitions and the design will incorporate images of the existing building murals. In addition, there will be dedicated space for vending machines.

16. What are the hours of access/times of year availability of the new comfort station?
o The new comfort station will be a seasonal facility like the existing washroom building and will be open Spring/Summer/Fall and closed during the winter.

17. What is happening to the murals/materials of the old comfort station?
o While artist Jeff Zimmerman’s 2012 temporary mural, Don’t Feed the Seagulls, is a distinctive and much-admired work of art on the lakefront, the wood siding that the mural was painted on has disintegrated to a point where it is not feasible to preserve.

18. How much of the park will be lawn vs. natural landscape?
o About 3/4 of the parkland will be lawn, and the remaining 1/4 vegetated with natural area plantings.

19. Will any trees be removed as part of this project?
o The vast majority of trees in the project area (367 trees) will remain and will be protected during construction. However, due to the transformative nature of the project, some trees will need to be removed (52 trees.) Of the 52 trees that will be removed, 24 are small, immature trees; 7 are in fair condition; 3 are in good condition; and none are classified as specimen condition. The remaining 18 are in poor condition. In addition, a number of “volunteer” weed trees clustered within the formerly-fenced storage area near the 51st street pedestrian bridge will be removed.

o Approximately 149 new trees (with 3” diameter trunks) will be planted to replace the trees that have to be removed.

20. Will the park have any native planting?
o Yes. The completed park area will include three new natural upland areas with a combined area of over four acres, featuring native grasses, perennials, shrubs and trees inspired by Chicago area native plant communities (dunes, prairies, and savannas.) These areas will look and feel similar to natural areas in other Chicago parks, including those found throughout Burnham Park and the Burnham Wildlife Corridor. The majority of the park area (78%) will consist of standard turf grass (lawn) with occasional trees, including many of the currently existing ones, and will look much like the parkland you see today.

21. Will the proposed improvements include separated Lakefront Trails?
o Yes. The project will include a complete rebuild of separated pedestrian and bicycle Lakefront Trails?

22. What new recreational features will be added?
o The project includes several new walking paths to access the lakefront and benches, water fountains and interpretive signage distributed throughout the area.

23. Why can’t you add a fitness station somewhere
o If demand is high, fitness station(s) can be added. Ideal locations are where they can be maintained by CPD staff and have high visibility.

24. What happened to the sea organ / wave chimes?
o Public art at the site will be determined at a later date, and an auditory installation is planned at the new Comfort Station

25. Are you doing anything to the Silver Spray shipwreck?
o No. The area of the shipwreck will remain as is and unimpacted by the construction.

FAQ – Construction Schedule

26. When will construction start?
o There is no target date for construction to start at the moment.

27. When will construction be complete?
o Construction is expected to take about 3 years.

28. What facilities will be open / closed during construction?
o Yes. A shared (bicycle and pedestrian) lakefront trail will remain open at all times and be temporarily re-routed around the construction zone. Access to the park via 47th Street and 51st Street pedestrian bridges will be unimpeded.

29. Will the Lakefront Trail be open during construction?
o Yes. The trail will remain open at all times but may be temporarily re-routed to avoid active construction zones.

30. Will the existing washroom be open during construction?
o No. The existing building will be demolished as part of the construction, to make way for a new CPD Comfort Station. The nearest facilities at 41st Street, 43rd Street, Promontory Point and 57th Street will remain open and follow the normal CPD lakefront seasonal schedule.

FAQ – Additional Questions

31. How much will this project cost, and who is paying for it?
o Documents are being developed for confirmation of the project estimate for the work. The funding sources are from the City of Chicago, Chicago Park District and Federal Agencies, including the US Army Corps of Engineers.

32. What ADA facilities will be available on site?
o All new paths / facilities will be designed per the Illinois Accessibility Code. This will include accessible toilets at the comfort station, multi-level drinking fountains, and the connection to the existing revetment south of 51st Street will open up a new stretch of lakefront with ADA-compliant routes.

33. What environmental protections are in place? What is being protected?
o Most of the existing on-site trees will be protected during construction. A few trees will have to be removed, most of which are in poor condition or located in non-sustainable areas. All trees that are removed will be done so outside of the migratory bird seasons and bat-roosting periods. Removed trees will be replaced with new trees. In addition, there will be restrictions on in-water construction work between November and April each year so as not to disturb habitat for the mudpuppy (a native amphibian) population.

34. Why have we not heard about this project before?
o This project has been discussed on and off for several decades, first during the Burnham Park Framework Plan creation in 1999, and again during the early 2000s, and most recently in 2014-15 during the Morgan Shoal Framework Plan.

35. What public safety measures will be in place at the new comfort station? How to deter vandalism etc.?
o The project will include new lighting, in and around the comfort station, and throughout the park along the lakefront trail. The new building will be made of robust concrete materials with designed patterning for an inviting structure. The new separated pedestrian and bicycle Lakefront Trail will enhance traffic patterns and help to eliminate congestion with ample signage for users.