Navy Pier Marks 10-Year Milestone as Nonprofit Cultural Institution

In 1909, architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham laid out an important vision.

“The lakefront by right belongs to the people … it should be made so alluring that it will become the fixed habit of the people to seek its restful presence at every opportunity.”

More than a century later, Navy Pier still belongs to the people. The generosity of philanthropic, individual, foundation and corporate donors ensures that Navy Pier remains free and accessible as the People’s Pier today.

Navy Pier Inc. is a non-governmental, independent nonprofit organization akin to those of other museums, zoos and cultural institutions in Chicago.

Navy Pier became a nonprofit organization 10 years ago to help guarantee the Pier’s future, protecting its commitment to culture, education and the arts, and to remove the operational burden from city and state taxpayers. The renowned civic space is designed to connect and give back to communities across the city, state and globe.

For the hardworking employees of the People’s Pier, it is more than a place of work; it is a platform to showcase their unique talents and passions. Every year, the Pier employs hundreds of young people from neighborhoods throughout Chicago’s South and West sides.

As a classroom site for the Southside Occupational Academy, Navy Pier provides young adults with disabilities the unique opportunity to learn essential skills and gain work experience. Many of these students receive job placement at the Pier upon completing the program.

Further, the Pier partners with more than 100 arts organizations and 2,600 artists each year to give the Chicago community and visitors access to over 250 free arts and cultural programs. This public program initiative provides much-needed work to the local arts community while maintaining the rich cultural scene that makes Chicago so unique and desirable. 

When Navy Pier was established as a nonprofit, the 100+-year-old Pier needed many improvements in order to be a world-class, sustainable destination for families and guests of all ages.

The Pier’s redevelopment plan, titled the “Centennial Vision,” became a reality in the form of the beautiful new Polk Bros Park Fountain and Plaza, a greener and more contemporary South Dock Promenade, an authentic Chicago food experience, and, of course, the beautiful Centennial Wheel.

The dedication and commitment of many partners has facilitated various improvements. For starters, Navy Pier is now home to the Peoples Energy Welcome Pavilion. The Pier also boasts two new outdoor performance areas in Polk Bros Park (the Lake and City stages); a modernized Family Pavilion made possible by Fifth Third Bank; a new, 223-room boutique hotel; and an innovative expansion of the Tony Award-winning Chicago Shakespeare Theater (called The Yard).

Navy Pier

Now, as Navy Pier enters its second decade as a nonprofit, it seeks enthusiastic supporters and partners who share in its vision to help it be a vibrant civic space that makes memories for families and guests from across the street and around the globe. Help us keep this lakefront treasure the People’s Pier for centuries to come.