The WISCH LIST
By Dave Wischnowsky
It’s the most well attended tourist attraction in the state and offers perhaps the best view of Chicago’s skyline that you can get with your feet planted on the ground, but Navy Pier has felt like a sinking ship for years.
It’s been that heavy with schlock.
Wading 3,000 feet out into the waters of Lake Michigan, the pier originally was envisioned as part of legendary architect Daniel Burnham’s celebrated 1909 Plan of Chicago.
However, over time, it crumbled into disrepair and largely remained that way until 1995 when, at a cost of $225 million, Navy Pier was completely remade as a mix of souvenir shops, sprawling exhibition halls, cultural attractions and public spaces.
That ’90s-style renovation, heavy on carnival-style kitsch and loud colors, proved appealing enough for Navy Pier to begin drawing more than 8 million people a year, re-establishing it as Illinois’ top tourist attraction, an honor the pier also held during the ’50s, when 3.2 million visited annually.
But as the pier closes in on its 100th birthday in 2016 having seen attendance dip a bit in recent years, it’s long been in dire need of a 21st-century makeover. And after visiting earlier this month, I can say that it’s finally getting one so good that I believe will stand the test of time.
And not just a couple of decades.