Building on Burnham renovates South Side museum

By Blaise Mesa

The Building on Burnham program is one step closer to its goal of increasing the city’s recreational spaces with the opening of an outdoor plaza adjacent to the Roundhouse building at the DuSable Museum in Hyde Park.

Announced in March 2016 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the program is a comprehensive plan to invest in the Lakefront, the Chicago River, natural areas and recreational opportunities in neighborhoods across the city.

“Daniel Burnham’s vision has guided the growth of Chicago for more than a century and made us known as the City in a Garden,” Emanuel said in a March 22, 2016, press release back when the project was announced. “This new strategy builds on both the work we’ve done over the last four years and Burnham’s plan to help ensure that the City in a Garden is within reach of every child in Chicago.”

Basement stairs and permeable pavers have been installed in the Roundhouse, 740 E. 56th Place, a building designed by Burnham for use as a stable during the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

Meanwhile, landscaping projects and fencing have transformed the asphalt lot into a top destination for visitors and a venue for private celebrations, according to a Sept. 1 mayoral press release.

“The patio area is something we can rent out to people for special events, family reunions, all sorts of things,” said Raymond Ward, media relations director for the DuSable Museum.“There will be more rental income for the museum by having that new area.”

Museum guests have said they are impressed by the way the renovations have transformed the area.

Ariel Bailey, a 24-year-old from South Chicago, said the renovations were definitely needed because having activities for all ages—either at the museum or park—is important for families.

Krystyna Williams, a 21-year-old from the South Side, said there was a lot to do and see at DuSable. 

The Building on Burnham program has provided successful green space transformations and community areas around Chicago in its first year. The program has also opened two nature areas—one on Northerly Island and another at Western and Peterson—and opened Maggie Daley Park, 337 E. Randolph St, which now boasts a rock climbing wall, mini golf course and a roller blading rink because of that project. 

“It’s a good way for families to come in and enjoy their time,” said Luis Pagan, a worker at the park’s rock wall. “It’s great to see families and enjoy climbing,” 

Mohammed Al Shokan, 36, who was visiting Chicago from Saudi Arabia, said there is not enough time in one day to explore the park.

Building on Burnham still has a some major projects to complete in the coming years. By 2018, the Navy Pier flyover—a separate path for pedestrians—will extend to Jane Addams Park, 550 E. Grand Ave., and separate bike paths from 31st to 51st streets are planned. Seven miles of bike trails will also be repaved, and the pedestrian bridge on 41st Street above South Lake Shore Drive will be renovated.

“The importance of community parks is for people to have somewhere to go to for early morning exercise or to have fun with friends,” Pagan said.