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April 2014

Maggie Daley Park beginning to take 'foam'

How is 20-acres of flat ground transformed into landscapedrolling hills and an ice ribbon? Giant foam blocks.

These white blocks, also known as Geofoam, are going to be used to form and contour the topography of Maggie Daley Park in downtown Chicago. 

Approximately 150,000 cubic yards of Geofoam will be used to create a hilly landscape and the park’s ice skating ribbon. Landscape architects say the lightweight, cost-effective, environmentally safe and recyclable fill material is key to creativity. The expanded polystyrene is being used around the world – as well as locally in the Midwest - to contour flat land. Geofoam is very strong and does not degrade or lose its size. It also allows for foliage to be planted, while also keeping soil limits low. 

At the completion of the renovation, more than 1,000 new trees will be planted to provide a diverse landscape. Much of the new plant material was selected specifically for its natural habitat opportunities, including the ability to attract migrating birds and other wildlife. The park renovation will also harvest 160 mature large trees that can’t be transplanted, but will be reused in innovative ways. Some of the harvested wood will be re-used as play elements in the Play Garden while others will be turned into benches to provide seating for park users.

The foam installation at Maggie Daley Park will be done by early summer. By September, dirt will be placed over the foam. The mass quantity of snow Chicago received this year did slow work a bit, but crews said phase two of the park — earthwork, utilities, paving, architectural and program elements, soil placement and planting — is on schedule for completion in October.

A soft opening for the $55 million park, named for the late wife of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, is scheduled for fall, and the park will be officially completed by spring 2015. 

A park district website, maggiedaleyparkconstruction.org, features two webcams to view the construction.

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