We’re keeping tabs on our community’s riverfront developments—so you don’t have to
MPC and partners’ comprehensive vision for the Chicago River system, Our Great Rivers, was released almost three years ago, and there continues to be significant momentum in moving this vision forward across the region. Missed the news? Here’s a snapshot of recent and ongoing planning activities that are increasing accessibility to and along the riverfront:
- A new riverside park, complete with floating gardens: The Wild Mile
Originally envisioned in the 2017 North Branch Framework Plan, the Wild Mile is a mile long section of the North Branch of the Chicago River, stretching along the east side of Goose Island between Chicago and North avenues, that will be transformed into an in-stream river park. The park will include new wildlife, recreational and educational elements. The current plans call for floating gardens and boardwalks that will allow for pedestrian and programmatic uses. The design is modular, which allows it to be built incrementally. The most recent design plans were unveiled at the second of three community meetings hosted by the Department of Planning in February. The third meeting is scheduled for April.
- A new community space: Throop Street River Park
The Department of Planning, in conjunction with a team of engineering and design consultants, is studying the potential for creating a park on the 1.5 acre vacant portion of the former Fisk site in the Pilsen Industrial Corridor along the north bank of the South Branch of the Chicago River. Two community meetings were hosted to determine community priorities for creating the park. The first community meeting solicited feedback from the public regarding what type of activities and amenities they would like to see. The second meeting presented two different designs to residents and stakeholders based on the feedback from the first community meeting. These comments will be incorporated into a final alternative.
- A possible extension of the Riverwalk: South Branch River Trail Feasibility Study
In 2018, the Chicago Department of Transportation commissioned a study to investigate the feasibility of creating a riverfront trail from Lake Street down to Ping Tom Park. The final version of the study will be completed in 2019. Following its release, the City has already committed to putting out a proposal for Phase I Engineering Design.
- New connections for a regional asset: Des Plaines River Trail
Des Plaines River Trail runs approximately 55 miles from the Wisconsin border south to Jerome Huppert Woods near the Village of Oak Park. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) and the Forest Preserves are studying potential trail alignments and connector routes between 26th St. and Ogden Ave., where a gap currently exists. The ultimate goal is to improve or construct the trail from Touhy Ave all the way down to the Chicago Portage National Historic Site, which will create an important, major link in the regional trail system.
- Connecting regional assets: I&M Canal Trail Extension Planning Efforts
The trail is part of the Grand Illinois Trail and currently runs approximately 85 miles from Willow Springs west to Peru, Illinois with multiple connections to other regional trails. CMAP is helping the Village of Justice and other neighboring communities to study the feasibility of extending the trail north connecting it to the Chicago Portage National Historic Site, the Salt Creek/Des Plaines River Trail system, and the City of Chicago.
- Promoting, safe active transportation to the river: Logan Blvd Feasibility Report
In October 2018, the Active Transportation Alliance released its project report, Reimagining Logan Boulevard to Lathrop Homes, which proposed changes to Logan Blvd to provide safe east-west access to the Chicago River by making it easier to walk and bike in a high-crash area. Recommendations include removing a travel lane on Logan Blvd for a short segment from Western Ave. to the service drive to create more space for people walking and biking, installing protected bike lanes on Logan Blvd and the Diversey Ave Bridge, re-painting crosswalks and adding a crosswalk on the south side of Logan Blvd at Western Ave.
- Safe connections and access to the river: Lathrop to Belmont Avenue Study
Similar to the Logan Boulevard Feasibility Report, the Active Transportation Alliance is now facilitating a community-led planning and design project to create safe connections for people walking and biking between the 312 RiverRun Trail at Belmont Ave and the trail at Lathrop Homes.
- Creating new spaces for pedestrians: Upper Wacker Feasibility Study
Led by Active Trans, this planning and design project will develop concepts to alleviate pedestrian and bicycle congestion along the Riverwalk on the Main Branch of the Chicago River downtown. The project will likely focus on reallocating street space along Upper Wacker Drive although other concepts will be explored.
- New riverfront development: The 78 and Lincoln Yards
The 78 and Lincoln Yards are two riverfront developments currently being proposed by developers Related Midwest and Sterling Bay, respectively. The 78 is located along the South Branch and Lincoln Yards is located along the North Branch of the Chicago River. Both development include riverfront trails and open space aligned with the revised design guidelines completed by the Department of Planning and Development and approved by the Plan Commission in late January.
- Filling in the gaps of a riverfront trail network: The Trail Planning Assessment and Framework
The Department of Planning for the City of Chicago has been busy cataloguing the current trail system that exists along the Chicago River and identifying where there are gaps. This information has helped them create a framework for a more complete trail network by determining what type of trail would be appropriate to fill in the gaps.
As you can see, there has been significant momentum in planning and implementing new projects along our riverfronts this year and last year, and we will continue to keep you posted as exciting new projects continue to occur throughout 2019.
Josh Zietse contributed to this post. He is a Research Assistant at MPC and a student at Dordt College. Our Great Rivers / Great Rivers Chicago: MPC’s Blogs and highlights on Our Great Rivers are made possible in large part by the Chicago Community Trust, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Union Pacific Foundation, BNSF Corporation, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation ArcellorMittal, Comcast Corporation, and individual donors.