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Take Me To the River
Six unique areas to complete Chicago's "second shoreline" along the Chicago River.
Overview of the River Theater from the bridge.
Courtesy Ross Barney Architects

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans in November to expand the city’s Riverwalk by six blocks, tying public space along Lake Michigan to the confluence of the river’s three branches at Wolf Point.

Conceptual plans establish identities for each of the six blocks from State Street west to Lake Street: The Marina (from State to Dearborn); The Cove (Dearborn to Clark); The River Theater (Clark to LaSalle); The Swimming Hole (LaSalle to Wells); The Jetty (Wells to Franklin); and The Boardwalk (Franklin to Lake).

Riverwalk plan.
Courtesy Sasaki Associates

“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,” Emanuel said in a statement. “It is now time to celebrate this incredible waterway with the completion of the entire Riverwalk project.”

The project is intended to draw more recreation to the riverfront, presumably to include kayaking at the Cove and the Marina, and fishing at the jetty. After the state com- mitted $10 million to clean up the Chicago River, the Environmental Protection Agency followed suit, ordering a cleanup for the wastewater-ridden waterway downtown that would be comprehensive enough to make stretches actually clean enough for swimming.


Small projecting piers at The Jetty (top). Bench seating at Marina Plaza (above).
Courtesy Sasaki Associates

The design team for the expansion is composed of Sasaki Associates, Alfred Benesch & Co., Ross Barney Architects, and Jacobs/Ryan Associates. Ross Barney previously designed Riverwalk Wabash Plaza, a $20 million development.

Emanuel said he has “charged CDOT to find creative ways to finance the construction” of the project. The agency’s staff has applied for federal money through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act to fund the build-out, estimated at $90 million to $100 million. The city will also seek sponsors for ongoing maintenance.

Chris Bentley


Underbridge perspective (above). Upper Wacker Drive looking westward (below).
Courtesy Ross Barney Architects