Just a few years ago, the shore of the polluted Chicago River was the last place tourists would want to go for a stroll; now, it's being hailed as the city's second waterfront. This week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to complete the Chicago Riverwalk, a long-term proposal to create a continuous parkway extending from Lake Michigan to the confluence of the three branches of the Chicago River. The new plan calls for the creation of a series of inviting, naturalistic recreation spaces with new piers, restaurants and floating gardens along the south bank of the river.
The design team of Ross Barney Architects, Sasaki Associates, Benesch, and Jacobs/Ryan Associates, propose creating a series of public spaces along the riverwalk. Each new block would have a different theme, and some of those spaces would include a learning center to promote understanding of the river’s ecology, a place for kayak rentals, a wood-planked boardwalk, a new bridge, floating gardens, and a fountain for kids to splash around in.
“The Chicago River is our second shoreline, which has played such a critical role in Chicago’s early history, the development of our industry and our quality of life,” said Mayor Emanuel in a press release. “It is now time to celebrate this incredible waterway with the completion of the entire riverwalk project, from Lake Michigan to the confluence of the three branches.”
Beginning in the 1980s, Chicago officials have sought to create a continuous walkway along the river in downtown Chicago, but it has been a long and expensive process. Bridges span the river at every block, and because they are all moveable bridges that can be opened and closed for boat traffic, riverwalk construction can’t interfere with the mechanical systems at the base of each bridge. So extending the riverwalk requires the city to build new walkways beneath each bridge.
The riverwalk extension would be Chicago’s most exciting new downtown park since Millennium Park was completed in 2004. Construction of the riverwalk is expected to cost about $100 million, and the city is currently looking at creative funding options. The Emanuel administration has already submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Transportation for funding, and the mayor has suggested using private sponsorships to help pay for maintenance and riverwalk operations once it is completed.
via Chicago Tribune