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City Announces Plan to Extend Riverwalk to Lake Street

By Ted Cox | October 8, 2012 3:45pm
 The Chicago Riverwalk will be extended from State Street along the south bank to Lake Street, completing its original boundaries.
The Chicago Riverwalk will be extended from State Street along the south bank to Lake Street, completing its original boundaries.
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DNAinfo/Michael Shin

DOWNTOWN — Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans Monday to extend the popular Chicago Riverwalk attraction from State Street west and around the southern bend of the Chicago River to Lake Street.

The $100 million project will complete the original layout for the riverwalk as planned in 1999.

The extension will be overseen by the Chicago Department of Transportation, which has applied for the entire cost of the project to be paid by federal funding. There is no timeline, however, to begin or complete the extension, pending the funding approval.

"The Chicago River is our second shoreline," Emanuel said in a statement. "It is now time to celebrate this incredible waterway with the completion of the entire riverwalk project, from Lake Michigan to the confluence of the three branches."

 Renderings for the proposed extension of the Chicago Riverwalk from State to Lake streets.
Chicago Riverwalk extension
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A team of architecture firms has designed six separate themes for each section of the river along its south bank as divided by the bridges at Dearborn, Clark, LaSalle, Wells, Franklin and finally Lake Street.

  • The Marina, from State to Dearborn, will accommodate restaurants and public seating.
  • The Cove, from Dearborn to Clark, will allow human-powered watercraft to dock and may provide kayak rentals.
  • The River Theater, from Clark to LaSalle, will enable access to Upper Wacker and the nearby theater district.
  • The Swimming Hole, from LaSalle to Wells, will feature a fountain and an area for recreation.
  • The Jetty, from Wells to Franklin, will focus on ecology, with floating gardens and piers for fishing.
  • The Boardwalk, from Franklin to Lake, will create an iconic bridge to draw pedestrians down from Upper Wacker to the riverwalk level.


"To really appreciate the Chicago River, it is essential to create accessible places where people can walk, wander, dine and relax," said Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River. "The Chicago Riverwalk will be a tremendous urban natural resource amenity which will produce jobs and provide new public open space for the people who live and work here or visit."

The team selected in May 2011 to create the final design included Sasaki Associates Inc., Alfred Benesch & Co., Ross Barney Architects and Jacobs/Ryan Associates.

The build-out limits for the riverwalk were originally set by the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers in 1999. The East-West Wacker Drive reconstruction project has specifically set aside land along the south bank of the river to complete the project. Up until now, however, the only additions were the placement of the Vietnam Veterans memorial just west of Wabash in 2005, and the block-long first phase of the riverwalk from Michigan Avenue to Wabash completed in 2009.

CDOT spokesman Pete Scales said there was no way to create a timeline on the project until the  funding was approved. Emanuel's office said it will also add revenue through corporate sponsorship of the various areas.

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