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Navy Pier opens new commercial, cultural family pavilion

Navy Pier officially opened the pavilion at its grand opening Tuesday. It boasts more than 50 businesses. | Heidi Zeiger Photography/Navy Pier

Navy Pier unveiled a new 200,000 square-foot pavilion on Tuesday as part of its centennial vision to rethink and celebrate the historic tourist spot.

The Fifth Third Bank Family Pavilion boasts more than 50 businesses and is an “industrial yet contemporary revamp,” said CEO and president Marilynn Gardner. The project is among a broader reimagination of Navy Pier that began in 2016 to celebrate its century-long legacy.

Fifth Third Bank regional president Eric Smith said the pavilion was a “wonderful opportunity for us to give back to our community,” as well as celebrate the two organizations’ shared values of families and community.

“What excites me the most about the design of the Family Pavilion is that it really reflects the inviting presence as the people’s pier,” he said.

The Crystal Gardens are on the second floor of Navy Pier’s new Third Fifth Bank Family Pavilion. | Yvonne Kim

Navy Pier partnered with design and architecture firm Gensler to design the space.

Regional design leader Benjy Ward described the process as a collaborative effort to “dial back” its outdated, carnival-like theme while maintaining the authenticity of Chicago with warmer materials and a richer atmosphere.

“We hope that, in concert with the way they’re leasing it now, will create a space for people — not only for tourists and out of towners to come to, but for the people of Chicago to feel like this is a home for them, too,” Ward said.

The space will offer 250 free programs this year, such as outdoor jazz concerts and children’s arts and crafts programming.

Smith added that he hopes the activities will allow both natives and visitors to “see what Chicago offers.”

Navy Pier “is a really important cultural and civic, iconic destination spot,” he said. “And a real honor for us to be a part of.”