Chicago wants your ideas for the future of the Chicago River

City Terrain Landscape Architecture Midwest News
Chicago riverwalk (Courtesy Sasaki Associates)

Chicago’s riverwalk is undergoing a massive expansion, but what’s next? (Courtesy Sasaki Associates)

What’s downstream for the Chicago River? Mayor Rahm Emanuel this week directed a panel of experts to draft a long-term plan for the network of Chicago-area waterways, announcing $350,000 in grants from the Joyce Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, and steel company ArcelorMittal to start a project dubbed “Great Rivers Chicago.”

With the expansion of the Chicago Riverwalk well underway—the Sasaki Associates–led project is supposed to open its first portions over Memorial Day weekend—the river is enjoying a surge of attention once unimaginable for a body of water better known historically for its pollution than its public space.

Over the next 15 months, however, the city-appointed group—the Metropolitan Planning Council and Friends of the Chicago River, as well as “topical experts and community stakeholders”—will seek ideas for all the rivers that comprise the subwatershed known as the Chicago Area Waterway System, including the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the Cal-Sag Channel, and the Calumet Rivers.

The city launched a website, greatriverschicago.com, which so far just lists facts about the area’s rivers and links to a survey meant to inform their future planning process. It asks Chicagoans to describe their current interaction with the river system, and how they’d like that to change.

Drawing Detail of “Reclaiming the Edge” by Studio Gang: A vision for the future of the Chicago River through a series of freshwater inland lagoons.

“Reclaiming the Edge” by Studio Gang presents a vision for the future of the Chicago River that includes a series of inland lagoons.

(The full riverwalk team includes lead architects Ross Barney Architects, as well as Jacobs Ryan Associates, Alfred Benesch & Company, and Schuler & Shook, in addition to Sasaki Associates.)

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