Planning of the park began in October 1997. Construction began in October 1998, and Millennium Park was opened in a ceremony on July 16, 2004, four years behind schedule. The three-day opening celebrations were attended by some 300,000 people and included an inaugural concert by the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus. The park has received awards for its accessibility and green design. Millennium Park has free admission, and features the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate, the Crown Fountain, the Lurie Garden, and various other attractions. The park is connected by the BP Pedestrian Bridge and the Nichols Bridgeway to other parts of Grant Park. Because the park sits atop a parking garage and the commuter rail Millennium Station, it is considered the world’s largest rooftop garden.
Some observers consider Millennium Park to be the city’s most important project since the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. It far exceeded its originally proposed budget of $150 million. The final cost of $475 million was borne by Chicago taxpayers and private donors. The city paid $270 million; private donors paid the rest, and assumed roughly half of the financial responsibility for the cost overruns. The construction delays and cost overruns were attributed to poor planning, many design changes, and cronyism. Many critics have praised the completed park
Millennium Park is a portion of the 319-acre (1.3 km2) Grant Park, known as the “front lawn” of downtown Chicago, and has four major artistic highlights: the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate, the Crown Fountain, and the Lurie Garden. Millennium Park is successful as a public art venue in part due to the grand scale of each piece and the open spaces for display. A showcase for postmodern architecture, it also features the McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink, the BP Pedestrian Bridge, the Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Wrigley Square, the McDonald’s Cycle Center, the Exelon Pavilions, the AT&T Plaza, the Boeing Galleries, the Chase Promenade, and the Nichols Bridgeway.
Millennium Park is considered one of the largest green roofs in the world, having been constructed on top of a railroad yard and large parking garages. The park, which is known for being user friendly, has a very rigorous cleaning schedule with many areas being swept, wiped down or cleaned multiple times a day. Although the park was unveiled in July 2004, some features opened earlier, and upgrades continued for some time afterwards. Along with the cultural features above ground (described below) the park has its own 2218-space parking garage
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