Chicago's Navy Pier, the city's No.1 tourist destination, kicked off $115 million in renovations this week, beginning with an initiative to add greenery to portions of the the historic parcel. Crews also will convert the pier's South Arcade, currently an interior walkway, into a “Chicago-themed food experience” and add a lighted water fountain and skating rink to an existing outdoor park.

Work will be phased over a 20-month period in order to keep the pier operational throughout construction, with Madison Construction Co., Orland Park, Ill., and Evans Construction/Consulting, Chicago, serving as the project's joint-venture construction managers.

To accommodate tourism, much of the work will occur through Memorial Day, and between Labor Day and Memorial Day 2015.

Following a 2012 competition, Chicago's Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority selected a design team for the project headed by New York City-based landscape architect James Corner Field Operations, designer of High Line Park on Manhattan's lower west side. 

Earlier this year, firm Principal James Corner told reporters his plan will remove clutter from the pier and introduce a stronger social element to the parcel.

Navy Pier Inc., the pier's operator, recently indicated Corner's plan may be supplemented by construction of a hotel on the property. Plans also call for expanding an existing children's museum and developing an additional $35 million in restaurant and entertainment uses.

Located along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, the 3,300-ft-long pier was designed by architect and city planner Daniel H. Burnham and constructed in 1916. Renovations currently under way are intended to celebrate the pier's centennial.