Great Rivers Chicago - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Great Rivers Chicago

Reconnecting Chicago and its rivers

Our Great Rivers is the first-ever unifying and forward-looking vision for all three of Chicago’s rivers. It also begins the process of looking upstream, downstream and across the banks to connect Chicagoans with forest preserves and suburban communities that will be vital partners in realizing our collective vision.

Issue

The Chicago, Calumet and Des Plaines rivers are three of our city’s greatest assets. Investments such as new boat houses and riverbank restoration are helping Chicagoans change the way they think of and experience our rivers, and there is a strong appetite for more improvements for open space, recreation, and community and economic development.

Solution

The Our Great Rivers vision—by 2040, Chicago’s rivers will be inviting, productive and living places where everyone can have their own experience—was articulated by thousands of stakeholders through an intensive 18-month, citywide visioning process led by the Metropolitan Planning Council, in partnership with the Office of the Mayor of the City of Chicago, Friends of the Chicago River and more. Our Great Rivers lays out discrete goals for 20202030 and 2040, enabling us to monitor progress toward achieving invitingproductive and living rivers. It also articulates a need to determine new revenue streams and leadership collaborations for the rivers to ensure that this vision is realized and can endure.

Benefits

Celebrate and enhance existing assets: Chicagoans are reimaging the river systems as our city’s Second Coast. Raise awareness of the river's trail system and build upon what exists to create a connected riverfront trail from Devon Avenue to Western Avenue that rivals Chicago's Lakefront Trail. 

Spark neighborhood development: Our rivers and riversfronts should be places that celebrate and showcase local neighborhoods by providing activities to bring communities together. Equip local stakeholders with the tools to take on their own placemaking initiatives on their riverfront.

Build consensus: River users vary and sometimes have competing priorities. Through collaboration, build consensus to create a river system that is Inviting, Living and Productive. 

Guide future development: Update riverfront development guidelines to reflect the collective vision in future developments.

Reinvigorate existing plans and initiatives: Bring existing initiatives together to spark new momentum leading to implementation.