SOUTH CHICAGO — A plan to make the Calumet River more inviting to fishers, walkers and even swimmers is moving forward and is seeking input from the public.
The South Chicago Chamber of Commerce is teaming with the Metropolitan Planning Council to find ways to make the Calumet River more recreation friendly, which could create a new green space for residents and an attraction to help bring people to South Chicago.
"It's been a commercial river since the late 1800s, and there's no public space," said Jack Rocha, a researcher with Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "At least we want to make it more welcoming to fisherman ... and so people can watch river activity."
The groups are looking at a few sites that could be turned into recreation areas: a stretch of city-owned land near the 92nd Street Bridge and the green space near Calumet Fisheries.
On Dec. 15, the chamber and its urban planning partners will walk from 92nd Street and Commercial Avenue to the 92nd Street Bridge (Ewing Avenue) to inspect the property and determine a way to turn it into a "pocket park," the groups said.
"This is a site that the [chamber] has been looking at for years and trying to get the political will to get something done," Rocha said.
Calumet Fisheries, already one of the area's main attractions, is seeking an easement on its riverfront property that will allow it to set up more seating along the river, Rocha said. That's right next to the 95th Street Bridge, which the Bluesmobile famously jumped in the "The Blues Brothers" movie. Movie fans still visit the bridge.
Turning sites along the Calumet River into green space will not only create new recreation activities for the area, but also could help revitalize South Chicago after years of economic hardship.
South Chicago officials are working on a plan to jump start the neighborhood's commercial corridor after the loss of three steel mills lead many small business on Commercial Avenue to close down.
Without a large industry, the neighborhood is looking to make a new name for itself using its history, culture and location near the river and lake.
That plan, led by the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce and the Great Cities Institute, is still largely in the planning phase, said Dan Lira, president of the chamber of commerce. But the group is also looking to capitalize on a citywide plan to boost recreation offerings along Chicago's rivers.
Called "Great Rivers Chicago," the effort seeks to make all Chicago rivers swimmable by 2030, as well as turn specific sites along the river into accessible green spaces.
Officials think the Calumet River project can help with their commercial district efforts. A few blocks walk from the commercial hub of 92nd Street and Commercial Avenue, the 92nd Street Bridge pocket park could give Chicagoans a reason to visit and stop in the neighborhood.
"It plays a role in the whole revitalization," Lira said. "It's having access to the river. It's beautification. Hopefully it can lead to tourists down the road."
Officials are also working to turn 91st Street into the "heart and soul corridor," which would host a hub of artist and creative spaces as well as public murals and outdoor art installations, Rocha said.
To join the tour of the 92nd Street Bridge site at 10 a.m. Dec. 15, RSVP by calling the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce at 773-768-1221.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here.