Millennium Park, ChicagoMillennium Park in Chicago, Illinois, is introduced below from the perspective of the Millennium Park Quadruple Net Value Report (2011), produced by Texas A&M University and DePaul University. The report assessed the significant social/cultural, economic, environmental, and sensory return on investment of the park to the City of Chicago.

The park, which is a former rail yard, parking lot and strip of green space, was conceptualised by former Mayor Richard M. Daley as an asset that would transform Chicago; one that would encompass art, music, and public space, becoming the world’s largest green roof (over a parking garage). The $USD 490 million park of 24.5 acres was designed by Frank Gehry, funded half by the city and half by private donors, and opened in 2004.

The park now comprises a series of pavilions, one fronting a great lawn; promenades, outdoor galleries, and distinctive gardens, fountain, monument, cloud gate and serpentine bridge connecting 319 acre Grant Park. It is located beside the Art Institute of Chicago and Tourism, Visitor Information and Cultural Centres and contains a theatre for music and dance, restaurant and a Cycle Centre.

The report describes Millennium Park as an example of real estate value creation through proper conceptualization, design, delivery and management in creating a cultural centre of Chicago, with 5 million visits per year, and an internationally recognized symbol of the city.

The report’s conclusions of the return on investment and return on perception are quoted here:

Social/Cultural Return
Real estate value is created in part by people visiting a site again and again. The programming at Millennium Park has been integral in successfully drawing visitors for their first or return visits. The park generates the following social/cultural returns: 610 annual free concerts, tours, workouts, theatrical performances, exhibitions and family events per year; 5 million annual visitors; a 10% increase in public transit ridership; 300 bicycle parking spaces, 250 rental bikes, 200 Segways; daily yoga, Pilates and Zumba classes in the summer (10,080 annual participants); ice skating in the winter months (70,000 +annual participants); 24.5 acres of parkland; a 71% increase in population (5,877 residents) near the park; 15,225 linear feet of walkways; world class architecture and art at nine primary venues; 9 revolving art exhibitions; 50-100 annual art tours in five languages (depending on weather conditions); 14 registered organizations committed to programming annual events; over 19 private development projects or facilities that claim the Millennium Park brand; 12.14 acres of green space; and 287 events and programs at the Family Fun tent that generates 229,693 participants.

Economic Return
The economic downturn in 2008, along with the historic landmark designation of Michigan Avenue buildings adjacent to the park, has created recent property tax assessment challenges for the park and its nearby properties. Despite these circumstances, it is clear that Millennium Park has generated the following economic impact on the City of Chicago: $490M in total park construction; $ 2.45 Billion in new construction near the park; 70,070 direct, indirect and induced jobs created by new construction in the area; a 57% increase in new residential units near the park (3,587 units since 2005); 29% premium on park units sold with views of the park; five million annual visitors which generate $1.29B in tourism dollars; $5.9M in annual operations costs that feed the local economy; 2,126 new underground parking spaces at Millennium Park; an 11% increase in hotel rooms (751 rooms) near the park; $173.5M donated by 115 founders to specific projects within the park; and 11 fortune 500 companies that donated to the park.

Environmental Return
The transformation of a small green space, parking lot, and rail yard into Millennium Park, with its many acres of natural landscaping, has had many positive affects on the environment. The environmental return on investment is evident in the following ways: 2.5 acres at the Lurie Garden; 2.2 acres of lawn at the Pritzker Pavilion; 7.6 acres of additional gardens in the park; a total of 12.14 acres of green space; a 61.5% increase in green space from the previous park on Michigan Avenue; the addition of 550 trees, 90,454 plants (39 varieties) outside of the Lurie Garden; the Lurie Garden has 35,000 perennial plants (240 varieties), 120,000 bulbs, 5,200 woody plants (14 varieties); the Exelon Pavilions are four of the five buildings with solar generated electricity (19,840 annual Kilowatt Hours); 70% retention of annual rainfall at the park; 50% drought tolerant plants in the park; 426.9 pounds of air pollutants removed annually; 4,300 square feet of walkway comprised of recycled granite counter tops; two I-GO cars at Millennium Park (car sharing program); 64.2% increase in permeable surfaces; Big Belly solar trash compactors adjacent to the park which minimize trash collection pollution; 15 annual environmental education programs; and 250 rental bicycles and 200 Segways that provide alternative modes of transportation for the region.

Sensory Return
A variety of carefully planned sights, sounds, textures, smells and tastes have been implemented in the Millennium Park. Other sensory elements occur naturally through day-to-day activities, further enhancing the sensory value of the park. While each person will react differently to the sensory aspects of the space, the five senses are impacted by Millennium Park in the following positive ways: four iconic architectural/artistic elements in the park designed by world class designers that impact the image and visual value of the park; three major water features that cover 2% of the park area for visual, sound and touch value; $2.5 M in annual maintenance to the park to ensure its continued sensory value to the community; Columbus Avenue depressed roadway and the BP Bridge sound barriers; $3M world class sound system for the Pritzker Pavilion performance area; 18 adjacent restaurants and thousands of flowering plants that positively impact visitors olfactory nerves; 5 million annual visitors that generate visual and sound value from social activity; underground trash collection which positively impacts the visual, sound and smell value of the park.

The subjective value of the park can’t be calculated, but the added value from the following items illustrate a greater return on perception: world class design has added value to the brand and image of Chicago; international visitation is an indicator of the park’s international reputation; building frontage on the park is more valuable but not calculated because typical office space covers the entire floor plate of the buildings; there is generally over $100 per square foot increase in value for residential units that have views of the park; the Millennium Park brand provides additional value to over 19 businesses; the park view from Michigan Avenue restaurants has stimulated the development of outdoor patios; generally, rental rates for retail space near the park has gone up; the brand value of Millennium Park has strengthened Chicago’s reputation as a tourist destination; an increasing number of suburban residents visit downtown Chicago to enjoy Millennium Park activities; and Chicago’s reputation as a world-class art destination has been enhanced by the permanent and rotating art and architecture at the park.

- Jerke D, Mikulenka R, Conti S, Nabavi N, and Budz C (2011) Millennium Park Quadruple Net Value Report. Texas A&M University and De Paul University, pp77.

Cover photo: View of Millennium Park from The Legacy at Millennium Park, Ryan Mikulenka