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Millennium Park

Landscape Performance Benefits


  • Removes 426.9 lbs of air pollutants each year through the addition of 550 trees. This service has an estimated value of $1,000 per year.
  • Generates 19,840 kilowatt-hours (67,697 MBtu) of electricity and saves $2,353 in energy costs annually via 920 photovoltaic modules


  • Offers over 610 free hands-on educational events each year.


  • Attracts approximately 5 million visitors annually, a 60% increase in a 6-year period, and generates an estimated annual revenue of $1.4 billion in direct visitor spending and an additional $78 million in tax revenue.
  • Increased the number of residential units in an underutilized part of the city by 57%, resulting in a population increase of 71% within a 6-year period. From 2005 to 2015, a total of $1.4 billion in residential development is projected.
  • Creates a 25-40% price per square foot premium on newer residential condominium units that have views of the park, in some cases up to $125 more per sf than units with views of the city and lake.
  • Increased rents in apartment buildings adjacent to the park by 22% since the park’s opening, and has helped them maintain an average occupancy rate of 94%.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    Terry Guen Design Associates; Gustafson Guthrie Nichol; Ed Uhlir

  • Project Type

    Park/Open space

  • Former Land Use


  • Location

    201 East Randolph Street
    Chicago, Illinois 60601-6530
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  • Climate Zone

    Humid continental

  • Size

    24.5 acres

  • Budget

    $482.4 million

  • Completion Date


Millennium Park, an award-winning center for art, music, architecture and landscape architecture located in Chicago’s East Loop district, is one of the world’s largest green roofs, sitting atop two multi-level parking garages and a commuter rail line. Formerly the site of Illinois Central rail yards and parking lot, Millennium Park has become a beloved local, national and international destination, spawning an increase in tourism and redevelopment in a previously underutilized part of the city. Hailed as a significant model for transformative placemaking in critical urban spaces, Millennium Park represents the visionary achievements that can result from effective leadership and a strong public/private partnership.


Remediation efforts were required to address soil contamination from the site’s previous use as a rail yard and parking lot. The parking garage below Millennium Park developed surface cracking in the columns due to additional structure loading that exceeded the original plans for the park. Another challenge relates to the difficulty of constructing a large-scale project in the urban downtown and above active rail lines.


Site remediation was required before the construction of the park began. The bottom floor of the parking garage became the cap for the contaminated soil, and additional measures were taken to reduce the impact of the trains traveling under the new park. Through a multidisciplinary approach, the garage was repaired, but load bearing numbers remained important to address not only the structures, but also the plants and trees. Repairs were based on recalculations of loads, taking into consideration the weights of trees 100 years in the future. Construction of the park over the rail lines took place at night when trains weren’t running, which significantly impacted the budget.

  • The park holds renowned works of architecture, fountains, sculpture, and garden spaces. Four defining elements designed by world-renowned artists, architects and landscape architects – Cloud Gate, Crown Fountain, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and Lurie Garden – are destinations in and of themselves.
  • Green space on the site increased by 62%, including the 2.5-acre Lurie Garden, the 2.2-acre Great Lawn, and 7.6 acres of other garden area. Permeable surfaces cover 12.24 acres, approximately half of the park’s total surface area.
  • There are currently over 450 trees in Millennium Park, representing a 400% increase from the site prior to the park’s construction.
  • More than 60% of the 35,000 perennials and 5,800 woody plants in the Lurie Garden are native to Illinois and/or the Midwestern U.S.
  • Millennium Park is accessible by various modes of private and public transportation, including multiple Chicago Transit Authority bus and light rail stops within a five-minute walk to the park and Metra and South Shore commuter trains. Subgrade and peripheral surface automobile parking is also available. Several I-GO car sharing cars are located near the park and the McDonald’s Cycle Center in the park rents 250 bikes.
  • The park offers facilities and programs that improve visitor health and well being and provide critical pedestrian connectivity within the city. Amenities include 15,225 linear feet of walkways, 2.2-acres of lawn, bicycle and Segway rentals, diverse fitness programs, and a seasonal ice skating rink. All walkways into and throughout the park are universally accessible, so people of all abilities share the same pathways.
  • There are over 15 environmental education programs for children, adults, and students. These groups can enjoy and learn about the Lurie Garden throughout the spring and summer months.
  • Millennium Park stays true to its philanthropic principles by offering over 600 free events each year, including symphony performances, art exhibits and family programs.

The “Lakefront Millennium Project” was originally planned as a 16-acre landscaped greenroof atop a parking garage, designed in the traditional Beaux Arts style of Grant Park. It was to serve as the new home for the Grant Park Music Festival, and would have cost $150 million ($120 million from parking revenue bonds and $30 million from private sources).

With a bold vision for transformative placemaking in a critical urban space, Millennium Park ultimately cost $475 million, with $173.5 million coming from the private sector. The project size increased by almost 50%, and required the removal of an existing parking garage and numerous design revisions in order to create the landscape that features a collection of work by world-renowned artists, architects, planners, landscape architects and designers.

Millennium Park became a catalyst for development in the surrounding neighborhood by creating a highly attractive magnet for activity, and by removing a barrier between downtown Chicago, sections of Grant Park, and the City’s waterfront. The result is a return on investment of an annual $1.4 billion in direct visitor spending and $78 million in tax revenue, and a projected $1.4 billion in residential development over a 10 year period.

  • When implementing sustainable design solutions, it is important to establish a maintenance plan and budget that allows for improvements in technology and performance. For example, lighting technology has made significant advances during the park’s first seven years. In 2004, relatively few energy saving solutions existed, and therefore were not incorporated into Millennium Park. Today, much of the original lighting has had moisture penetration issues. As time goes on, the park will be updated with moisture resistant, cost saving, and environmentally-friendly lighting solutions. 
  • Fast tracking the construction of a site can cause costs to drastically rise. In an effort to open the park in the year 2000, construction began before the final plans were complete. The unfortunate results were that significant structural work completed on the underground parking facility had to be redone, and in one year’s time over 1,000 design revisions were issued by the City after construction was underway. 

Project Team

Master Planner: Ed Uhlir, FAIA
Master Landscape Architect: Terry Guen Design Associates, Inc.
Landscape Architect, Lurie Garden: Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd.
Architect, Jay Pritzker Pavilion and BP Bridge: Frank Gehry
Architect, Harris Theater and North Exelon Pavilions: Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge
Architect, Wrigley Square and McCormick Tribune Plaza: OWP&P
Architect, Crown Fountain: Kreuck Sexton Architects
Artist, Crown Fountain: Jaume Plensa
Architect and Engineer, Michigan Avenue Ornamental Concrete: Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP
Engineer and Architect: McDonough Associates
Artist, Cloud Gate: Anish Kapoor
Fabricator, Cloud Gate: Performance Structures LLC
Developer: Public Building Commission of Chicago
Developer, BP Bridge, Cloud Gate, and Crown Fountain: U.S. Equities Development
Developer, Lurie Garden, Exelon Pavilions, seating and site furniture: Spectrum Strategies Development Corp.
General Contractor: W.E. O’Neil Construction Co.
General Contractor: Clark Construction Group Inc.
General Contractor: James McHugh Construction Co.

Role of the Landscape Architect

Served as lead site planner and garden designer, collaborating with a team of designers, artists, and other professionals to design, plan, and develop the park.


Energy use, Air quality, Recreational & social value, Property values, Economic development, Trees, Onsite energy generation, Native plants, Placemaking, Revitalization

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