Walsh Construction, one of two bidders on the project, soon will begin work, with the first three blocks of the project expected to be done by the end of next year.
"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," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. "With the reinvention of the Downtown Riverwalk, we are making the Chicago River into the city's new recreational frontier."
Each block of the project will have a different theme: The Marina (between State and Dearborn streets); The Cove (between Dearborn and Clark streets); The River Theater (between Clark and LaSalle streets); The Swimming Hole (between LaSalle and Wells streets); The Jetty (Wells to Franklin streets); and The Boardwalk (between Franklin and Lake streets).
The first phase, expected to be completed in 2014, will focus on the Marina, Cove and River Theater.
The second phase will begin next spring and concentrate on the remaining blocks.
In March, the city secured a $100 million loan from the U.S. Transportation Department for the project.