With the Chicago Children’s Museum looking more and more likely to stay at Navy Pier, the Daley Administration has found a new use for the part of Grant Park it had set aside for a new museum facility: a one-of-a-kind Walmart Supercenter offering everyday low prices to the millions of residents, workers, and tourists who fill the Loop every year.
Daley has long been a supporter of Walmart, and is still upset at the City Council’s resistance to the retailer’s expansion into Chicago. Two Supercenters are set to open in 2012 and 2013, but Daley, who leaves office in May, sees the Grant Park store as his last chance to shape the downtown landscape and wants to fast-track the plan, according to our insider.
Like the proposed museum, the new Walmart will be a mostly underground affair, our source says. The retail giant is rumored to have approached Frank Gehry about creating the store’s above-ground entrance in a design consistent with his nearby Pritzker Pavilion and BP Pedestrian Bridge. Others expect Jeanne Gang, the architect behind the award-winning Aqua high-rise, to adapt her designs for the long-delayed Ford Calumet Environmental Center as a low-profile entryway.
Grant Park, of course, is protected by legislation declaring it be “forever open, clear and free.” When asked whether the Walmart proposal flouted that legislation and disrespected the legacy of A. Montgomery Ward, Chicago’s storied “watchdog of the lakefront,” our source replied, “Montgomery Ward or Walmart? I think we know who won that fight.”