Emanuel plans to extend Chicago Riverwalk

October 8, 2012

Caroline O'Donovan

(WBEZ/Caroline O'Donovan)

Chicagoans could soon be spending almost as much time on the river as they do along the lake.

The city released its new plan to expand and develop the riverwalk. The plan includes facilities for boating, fishing, dining and – one day – swimming. A boardwalk will also help make the riverfront more accessible to pedestrians.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that Chicago’s taxpayers will not be bearing the entire cost of the project. He said the city will be seeking private partnerships for the project, as well as funding through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act. 

The lead designers are from Sasaki Associates in Boston and Chicago’s Ross-Barney Architects. The latter was the lead on an earlier stage of riverwalk development that was completed in 2009.

The new plan will entail a series of different areas as the river moves east. The Boardwalk will begin as far west as Franklin, featuring floating gardens and fishing piers. Other elements of the plan include The Marina, which will allow for retail space, and The Cove, which will allow small craft and kayaks to dock.

Dan Reynolds is the General Manager of Dick’s Last Resort, one of a handful of restaurants along the north side of the river between State and Clark streets.

He says more foot traffic won’t just be good for business, it could help draw attention to the river’s water quality.

"I’ve seen riverwalks in other cities and it can’t do anything but help. I mean, anything that helps the river. The more people that see the river, hopefully the cleaner it will get and people will take more care. You come out and see the river and see plastic cups floating in it and, you know, that’s not what this is," Reynolds said.

The city predicts the plan will cost between $90-$100 million.

It’s also seeking private partnerships and applying for federal transportation funding.