Polk Bros Park at Navy Pier
A Legacy Gift
In July 2014, Polk Bros. Foundation announced a $20 million legacy gift to Navy Pier, made in recognition of the legendary role that the Polk family and the Polk Bros stores played in the lives of Chicagoans. The gift is contributing to the transformation of Navy Pier, and marks the single largest private gift ever made to the Pier in its nearly 100-year history.
As one of the most visited destinations in the Midwest, Navy Pier provides a tremendous public asset to the people and families of Chicago. Conceived as the “People’s Pier” in Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago, more than 60 percent of its nine million-plus annual visitors come from throughout the Chicagoland area. Navy Pier underwent a dramatic redevelopment in anticipation of its centennial in 2016. The result is a transformation of Navy Pier’s 50 acres of premier urban waterfront into a spectacular, global destination and treasure for Chicagoans and visitors.
Beautiful New Green Spaces for Chicagoans to Enjoy
The Polk legacy gift has helped reimagine and reinvent Navy Pier’s gateway and is serving as a lasting testament to the Polk family’s contributions to Chicago as successful entrepreneurs and philanthropists. The 13-acre Polk Bros Park is Navy Pier’s green front door and includes three beautiful, highly interactive and programmable outdoor spaces, showcasing arts and culture and providing spectacular public expanses for Chicago families and visitors to enjoy for years to come.
Polk Bros Fountain and Plaza at the entry point of the Pier feature a dramatic, 12,500-square- foot signature fountain in warm weather with more than 250 programmable jets that mimic the movements of waves, schools of fish, flocks of birds and other magnificent scenes. In the winter months, Navy Pier offers special seasonal programs, encouraging year-round activity in the large outdoor space. Polk Bros Park Performance Lawns include two new performance spaces at the park’s southern end to host live arts and culture events set against amazing views of Lake Michigan and Chicago’s skyline.
A Transformation into Chicago’s Mission Driven Cultural District
Through a new approach to arts and culture, Navy Pier is engaging Chicago’s arts and educational organizations in creating programming designed to engage the city’s economically, racially and culturally diverse residents, including Chicago public school students and their families.
“We are delighted to see the Polk Bros legacy continue…one of hard work and commitment to the neighborhoods and families of Chicago. In honor of the family and Polk Bros, we make a legacy gift to the city and to the communities throughout Chicago who helped make the Polk Bros retail stores so successful,” said Howard Polk, member, Polk Bros. Foundation Board of Directors and son of Morris Polk, one of the original Polk brothers. “We truly believe that Navy Pier, the ‘People’s Pier’ – a welcoming landmark that is iconically Chicago and accessible to all – has provided us with the perfect venue for the Polk Bros name to live on for future generations.”
As a free, public space in which all people can come together to celebrate Chicago, explore the arts, and enjoy themselves, Polk Bros Park is a lasting testament to the Polk family and its entrepreneurial and philanthropic history and is meant as a gift for all Chicagoans.