Regrettably, Clarke used a ham-handed tactic to get Nutter's attention, holding up the mayor's plan to fund the renovation by selling the garage underneath the plaza. Meanwhile, park enthusiasts gasped at Clarke's ridiculous proposal to consume almost 30 percent of the park with food concessions, which would be more likely to take up precious open space than to make money.
After weeks of negotiations, though, Nutter agreed to take a closer look at the idea of concessions. The mayor in turn will get his green space and a design framework that enhances the park's visual alignment with the Parkway.
Fortunately, there will be a public planning process allowing the people who use the park to influence its redesign. That's essential, because while LOVE Park is located in Clarke's Council district, it belongs to the entire city. Countless visitors have posed for pictures in front of Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture. And the park is a pleasant-weather respite for office workers and others in the neighborhood.
As part of the deal, Clarke will allow a $30 million sale of the garage underneath the park to proceed, with a hearing set for Wednesday to begin Council's approval process. InterPark Holdings of Chicago has agreed to renovate the underground garage and the park above at the same time, an efficient approach. Most of the $15 million to rejuvenate the park is likely to come from the sale of the garage. But Nutter agreed to look into private funding at Clarke's request.
Already, the commercial real estate company Liberty Property Trust has offered to donate engineering work for the park. The city is also seeking a $3 million state grant.
This is a good deal that started with petty politics but ended with a love fest between two leaders who showed they can act in the city's best interests. They sealed the deal with kind and respectful words that should herald a new way of doing business.