The much anticipated Chicago South Loop Riverline Development has broken ground. The Perkins+Will-designed and master planned 14-acre development sits along the Chicago River’s South Branch, surrounding Bertrand Goldberg’s iconic Rivercity.

A joint venture between Chicago-based CMK and the global developers Lendlease, Riverline will create a new community of 3,600 new residences on the currently vacant site. A mix of rentals and condos will fill a series of high-rises and mid-rises. The first phase of the project will focus on three complexes: the Ancora, Current, and Watershed. The Ancora, the tallest, will be one of the first to open and will have 29 stories of rental apartments and townhouses. When complete, the Current be an 18-story condo building while the Watershed consists of nine three-story townhouse buildings. Each of the Watershed buildings will feature between six and eight individual townhouses. Two of the Watershed buildings will be sited directly along the river.

One of the most notable aspects of the project will be the space in between the buildings. Along with continuing the ever-growing Chicago Riverwalk, the Riverline will include nearly six acres of green space connecting the city to the river. The Perkins+Will plan calls for removing the degraded seawall, which is currently along the river, and replacing it with a more natural bank featuring native plantings. Water management on the site will be handled through a system of wells, green roofs, and wetland areas. Rainwater will be captured on site, cleaned, and used or discharged into the river. The connection to the river will also be bolstered by an anticipated river taxi stop and kayak launch.

The Perkins+Will-designed Riverline in Chicago's South Loop. (Courtesy Perkins+WIl)

The Perkins+Will-designed Riverline in Chicago’s South Loop. (Courtesy Perkins+WIl)

“On a typical riverfront development, there’s a seawall that sets you back from the edge of the water,” said Todd Snapp, Perkins+Will design principal, in a statement to the press. “We’re bringing you down to where you can touch the river, engage with it.”

The site has been vacant since 1971 and is typical of the often heavily industrial past of the Chicago River. A resurgence of public and private development along the river is quickly changing the nature of the city’s relationship to one of its major resources. Just north of the Riverline site, three new towers have either been recently completed or are near completion. To the south of the site, a 62-acre area is being eyed for major development. The new Ping Tom Park in Chinatown, along the river, and the Ross Barney Architect’s design Riverwalk in the downtown have both become popular destinations.

“We have the opportunity to create a dialog among 10 different buildings, which is very rare,” said Ralph Johnson, global design director of Perkins+Will, in a press release. “It will also establish an environmentally friendly and restorative connection with the river.”

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