Why a floating resort could be the next Navy Pier

SHARE Why a floating resort could be the next Navy Pier

Chicagoans may get a new place to have fun — a $23 million resort floating in Lake Michigan near the outer breakwall.

The destination — officially a vessel — will depend partly on Chicagoans’ willingness to fund it: The city of Chicago will announce Tuesday that the project, called Breakwater Chicago, will be backed by its crowdfunding program, Seed Chicago. The crowdfunding program lets residents donate to small-business projects aimed at creating jobs and growing the economy.

A Chicago-based startup, Breakwater Chicago LLC, wants to anchor the 50,000-square-foot vessel — it will look like a ship enclosed in wintertime under a transparent dome — about 1¼ miles off of the Chicago shoreline next summer.

For about $20, adults could go to the site to swim in a swimming pool, eat at new restaurants, relax at a spa or lounge on sun decks. Children would get in for an as-yet-undetermined lower price. The idea is to create an alternative to driving or boating to harbor towns such as New Buffalo or South Haven, Michigan.

Water taxis would take people to the resort, and people would be able to dock boats at 30 slips at the site for $25 an hour, said Beau D’Arcy, a Plainfield native who lives in Lincoln Park and is president of year-old Breakwater Chicago.

None of the retailers or restaurants on the site has been identified, but D’Arcy says the plan is to have at least one experienced Chicago restaurant company help create one of the eateries. The structure could hold 2,850 people at one time, and would operate from about 8 a.m. until midnight during weekdays.

“We plan to offer everything from sunrise yoga to lunch service to a sunset dinner,” D’Arcy said.

A private section — no more than 10 percent of the entire space — would be a membership-only venue that would host ticketed events such as a symphony concert or corporate events, D’Arcy said.

Breakwater has started raising the first $1 million for the first phase of the project, and has hired an architect (Space Architects, the Chicago firm that designed Old Town restaurant Benchmark with a retractable roof) and naval architectural firm Elliott Bay Design Group of Seattle to create the huge structure.

The resort would be moored in the lake with feet, called “spuds,” that would rest on the top of the lakebed. The spuds could be quickly pulled up in case of a hurricane or other emergency so the structure could be moved to safety by tugboat, D’Arcy said.

D’Arcy, 33, returned to Chicago after he earned his MBA at Harvard. He co-founded the company with Ashvin Lad, 40, and Elizabeth Bell, 32, all MBA grads who met through mutual friends.

D’Arcy, who has an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, credited his love of sailing with helping him come up with the idea. He noticed that Chicagoans didn’t have a nearby getaway offshore like Catalina Island or the islands around Boston.

The project, even if funded, must pass muster from a long list of government agencies: the Coast Guard, the Illinois liquor control commission, state departments of public health and natural resources. The resort would also have to adhere to city noise restrictions and is designed to deflect sound away from shore as much as possible, D’Arcy said.

D’Arcy sees the resort as a model for others outside of the United States.

“Being a hometown guy, my idea is once we deliver the Breakwater here, we would look to replicate it internationally,” he said. Possible future sites include Rio de Janeiro, Dubai, Monaco and Sydney, Australia.

Peter Carideo, owner of Chicago’s CRC Travel, a custom travel company, said Monday he doesn’t believe the resort would compete with Navy Pier or with local cruise ships because it is so unique.

“I don’t know that I want to stare at it, since I like my unimpeded view of the beautiful lake,” Carideo said.

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