Construction is wrapping up for the $41 million renovation of the Lincoln Park Zoo’s historic lion house. Originally built in 1912, the now-landmarked masonry structure was designed by the Chicago-based Dwight H. Perkins.
The new transformation will involve a name change to the Pepper Family Wildlife Center, and will support habitats for the lions, snow leopards, Canadian lynxes, and red pandas. Envisioned by Goettsch Partners and the Seattle-based wildlife habitat firm PJA, the center involves the preservation and restoration of the building’s historic design elements, such as the brick facade, mosaics, and tiling.
Despite its extensive preservation, the venue will integrate several new notable features, such as climate-controlled capabilities, a zip line for transporting food into the lion habitat, and a “lion loop” that will allow visitors to see the animals from new viewing angles, some of which will be from underneath the habitat.
Also of note is the new outdoor savannah habitat that will include a climbing tree, deadfall, and shaded areas. The lions will be able to move easily between the indoor and outdoor areas, and will be within easy view of visitors as they migrate. The construction will also provide new holding areas only accessible to staff (and the lions).
The zoo itself is within close walking distance of various bus lines, such as Routes 151 and 156, both available at Stockton & Webster, located just paces west of the west entrance. One block west at Clark & Webster are additional stops for Routes 22 and 36. Other slightly further access points can be found for Route 37, 73, 134, and 143. For visitors looking to board the CTA L Brown or Purple Lines, Sedgwick station is a 17-minute walk southwest.
Pepper Construction has served as general contractor for the project, which is expected to open this fall. The lions have been housed at other facilities during the work, but will be transported back to the zoo prior to opening, where they will undergo a 30-day quarantine before entering their new home.