A proposal to rename a stretch of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive is one step closer to reality after a City Council committee voted to approve the measure in a meeting that was contentious and at times profane.
The Chicago City Council Committee on Transportation met Thursday to consider an ordinance to rename a portion of Lake Shore Drive as “Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Drive.”
The ordinance was initially introduced by 17th Ward Ald. David Moore and co-sponsored by several other Chicago City Council members to rename the iconic roadway after Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who arrived in Chicago in 1790 and was likely the first permanent non-Native American settler of the area.
According to the language of the initial ordinance, proposed in 2019, Lake Shore Drive would be renamed “Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Drive” from Hollywood Boulevard, located in the city’s Edgewater neighborhood on the North Side, to the South 71st Street merge on the South Side.
Moore later agreed to limit the proposal to Outer Lake Shore Drive from Hollywood to 67th, just impacting the city’s harbors and not changing the addresses of businesses or residences along LSD.
But at an event just hours before the committee meeting Thursday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot presented an alternate proposal to honor DuSable: finishing a park named for him that had been tabled for decades and renaming the Chicago Riverwalk after him.
“It goes without saying that DuSable has not been properly recognized as the founder of this city. We don’t exist if he doesn’t come set up a trading post with his wife Kitihawa who obviously helps him navigate the Potawatomi tribe and what we’ve done to date historically in my view is woefully inadequate,” Lightfoot said, when asked about the ordinance before the Transportation Committee while at an unrelated news conference at Navy Pier.
“So the proposal is this: DuSable Park, which is I think just south of where we are sitting right now, it was actually something that Harold Washington gave to the park district in 1987 and that project has languished for all these years in part because there was a lot of environmental remediation that needed to be done, tracing down who was responsible for it, long story short, we’re now in a position where we can actually turn this park into reality and we’ve got the resources to make that happen,” she continued.
“We will then connect up, both physically and thematically, that park with turning the riverwalk into the DuSable Riverwalk and there are going to be three iconic statues that will tell part of the story of DuSable and Kitihawa,” Lightfoot said.
Then in the committee meeting itself, a representative for the Chicago Department of Transportation introduced substitute language that Moore called a “whole new ordinance” that had not been previously discussed, later exclaiming it was “racist bull****.”
Ultimately the committee approved the measure unanimously following the at-times contentious discussion, with a promise to fix the language of the ordinance before it goes before the entire City Council for a vote.
Point du Sable arrived at the mouth of the Chicago River in 1790 and established a property near what is now Michigan Avenue. He sold his property in 1800, according to researchers, but the area where he settled is now marked by historic markers along the Chicago River.
If the roadway is renamed, it would be the second prominent street to be renamed in the city in recent years. Congress Parkway was recently re-christened as Ida B. Wells Drive after the famous journalist and activist who helped found the NAACP.