Neighborhoods take action on their local riverfront - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Neighborhoods take action on their local riverfront

Chicago Community Trust funds ten river-oriented projects in neighborhoods throughout Chicago.

New grant provides opportunities to reconsider some parcels in neighborhoods along Chicago's three rivers

The Our Great Rivers vision calls for a river that is inviting, living and productive in all of its 155 miles of riverfront, spanning the Chicago, Des Plaines and Calumet Rivers. Earlier this year, MPC was thrilled when the Chicago Community Trust (Trust), a major partner and financial supporter of the Great Rivers Chicago initiative announced the Our Great Rivers Request for Proposals. This new funding opportunity aims to revitalize riverfronts in neighborhoods throughout Chicago’s rivers, and these grants are a critical component to “unlock the potential of the rivers as catalysts for change and inspire new generations of Chicagoans to see the system as a modern asset rather than an industrial relic,” notes Chicago Community Trust Sr. Program Officer, Michael Davidson.  

This is an exciting development in the progress toward implementing the Our Great Rivers vision, particularly because it exemplifies that improving Chicago’s rivers is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The Our Great Rivers grant is for planning, projects and programs that demonstrate alignment with the Inviting, Living and Productive pillars of the Vision while simultaneously connecting to the sustainable development, arts and culture, public health and economic development focus areas at the Trust.

The funded projects are emblematic of the changing character and required interventions that span Chicago’s rivers. Last year, MPC hosted Ideas to Action workshops to provide assistance to stakeholders who are interested in activating the stretch of river in their own neighborhood. Representatives from the Trust announced the grant at the workshops and we are thrilled to see many of these ideas moving forward with this new financial support.

In the coming year, MPC will convene project leaders and their partners to develop a cohort of river activators to share best practices, support local initiatives and advocate for improved environmental quality and opportunities for recreation. See below for a brief description of the funded projects or click here for additional details.

 Chicago River’s North Branch

  • Chicago Public Art Group and the American Indian Center will develop the Northwest Trail Outdoor Museum, featuring art installations and gardens to tell the story of the Native American Portage between the Des Plaines River and Chicago River.
  • Heartland Housing, in partnership with the Chicago Housing Authority will establish a Friends of Lathrop entity in conjunction with the new housing development which will open in 2018.

South Branch

  • The Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community will strengthen Chinatown’s position as a riverfront neighborhood by implementing a wayfinding program and culturally significant placemaking activities, including a mural installation and dragon boat activities.

 Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal

  • The Little Village Environmental Justice Organization will explore public health implications of the Chicago waterways with a focus on Little Village and Southeast Chicago.
  • MPC, in partnership with Friends of the Chicago River, Active Transportation Alliance and the South Branch Park Advisory Council will build community capacity to improve current riverfront access and examine potential for a connected riverfront trail.

Little Calumet River

  • The Forest Preserves of Cook County are engaging the Altgeld Gardens community in a 10 year plan to connect Altgeld Gardens to Beaubien Woods and the Calumet River to improve access to the river and explore programming that will support this initiative.
  • Major Taylor Cycling Club of Chicago is supporting environmental and aesthetic improvements to the Mayor Taylor Trail near the Little Calumet River.

Calumet River

  • Great Cities Institute and Alliance for the Great Lakes will lead a process to identify sustainable economic and recreational opportunities along the Calumet River.
  • Wildlife Habitat Council will promote conservation and activate natural recreation at five locations along the heavily industrialized shoreline of the Calumet River.

Des Plaines River

  • Active Transportation Alliance will advance multi-jurisdictional planning, development and management of the Des Plaines River Trail between Touhy and North Avenues.

Stay tuned throughout 2018 for progress updates on these exciting projects!

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