Posts tagged with "Chicago River":

Placeholder Alt Text

Lincoln Yards could bring an “instant neighborhood” to the Chicago River

Developer Sterling Bay released additional details and renderings by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for the Lincoln Yards mega-development during a packed public meeting in Chicago’s 2nd Ward on July 18. A master plan of the site was also introduced, as well as some eyebrow-raising figures: 5,000 residential units, 500 hotel rooms, 23,000 on-site jobs, 13 acres of public space, 1 mile of new riverwalk, and a 1,300 feet extension to the 606, as well as the potential for the construction of multiple skyscrapers reaching up to 800 feet, or approximately 70 stories. The project currently encompasses 52 acres of the industrial corridor between Lincoln Park and Wicker Park, the result of three years of calculated land purchases by Sterling Bay along the Chicago River and within the area of the north side bordered by North Avenue, Elston Avenue, Webster Avenue, and Clybourn Avenue. If implemented as proposed the project would have a prodigious effect on the north branch of the Chicago River and multiple north side communities, businesses, and pieces of infrastructure. It would be an instant neighborhood created by a single developer. The development is presented with two distinct spatial components: The residential and commercial structures, as well as the proposed skyscrapers, will be constructed north of the bend in the Chicago River, while the south side will house the entertainment venues and recreational space. While the north side is now vacant land, cleared of the former A. Finkl & Sons steel plant last year, the south still has existing buildings with an enclave of small businesses immediately to the west, a combination of mixed-use manufacturing buildings, retail, restaurants, and bars, including Chicago’s iconic Hideout music venue. Despite the long transition to contemporary development, old-line manufacturing is still prevalent within and along Lincoln Yard’s proposed borders, and the General Iron Industries scrapyard is located prominently across the river. While General Iron Industries plans to move operations to the southeast side in 2020, some local businesses have made it clear that they intend to stay as the development of the project begins, as the Chicago Tribune reported. Sterling Bay has pledged to conduct traffic studies and congestion mitigation at area intersections but is also proposing to remove several small streets and easements in favor of a new diagonal thoroughfare, Dominick Street, that would cut across the center of the development. However, the development's approach of creating Loop-style density from scratch has yet to be tested, and with congestion already a nuisance at the existing site, the addition of 5,000 residential units, hundreds of hotel rooms, and a 20,000-seat soccer stadium will likely prove problematic for those living in surrounding communities that are defined primarily by two– and three–story vernacular structures and are the result of an ever-evolving architectural and cultural narrative. Sterling Bay has pledged to provide affordable housing and retain some of the historic industrial features of the area, such as truss bridges, but has not articulated how that will occur outside of the development following applicable laws. Sterling Bay intends to pursue local and federal funds to make infrastructure improvements, including changes to roadways and mobility systems. The federal assistance would require that the project complies with all local, state, and federal environmental and historic preservation laws before ground is broken, a process that will ultimately resemble the review required to construct the Obama Presidential Center in South Shore. The developer has also yet to provide additional detail on the proposed 23,000 permanent jobs, or whether the project area will increase as additional land becomes available. The proposal is expected to be filed to city council as soon as the end of July.
Placeholder Alt Text

Chicago offers up historic Chicago Avenue bridge for free

Looking for a gift that truly shows you care? Give the gift of infrastructure! The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) has announced it is offering up one of its historic bascule bridges for free to any state, local or responsible entity willing to haul it away. Built in 1914 by the Ketler-Elliot Erection Company of Chicago, the Chicago Avenue Bridge spans the north branch of the river and is one of many pony truss style bascule bridges. The bridges’ leaves are suspended on axles underneath the street, with the counterweight hidden within a riverbank pit tucked behind a limestone enclosure. This type of bridge was developed in Chicago in 1900, with the first one constructed in 1902 still in operation at Cortland Street and the Chicago River. Bascule bridges opened easily and did not obstruct the river with a central pier, a must to accommodate a busy early 20th century waterway serving Chicago’s commercial route to the Mississippi River system. The bridge replacement is a component to proposed traffic improvements along Chicago Avenue in advance of the construction of One Chicago Square, a massive 869 residential structure proposed at State Street and Chicago Avenue. Designed by Goettsch Partners and Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, One Chicago Square calls for two glassy towers atop a podium, the tallest of which tops out at 1,011 feet, making it what could be Chicago’s sixth tallest building. The future owner of the bridge assumes all costs for moving the bridge and maintaining historically significant features. The City of Chicago intends to replace the bridge with a modern concrete and steel structure this fall. Those interested must submit a proposal by July 13.  Thus far, the CDOT has received no offers for the bridge. The bridge comes with a determination of eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), which requires the City of Chicago to make a reasonable effort to offer the bridge up for restoration to interested parties. The gift includes the embedded counterweights and the two bridge houses.
Placeholder Alt Text

Soccer stadium and music venues coming to Lincoln Yards development along the Chicago River

A new entertainment complex is coming to a former strip of industrial land along the north branch of the Chicago River. Live Nation has partnered with Sterling Bay to create a year-round entertainment district within a proposed 70-acre north branch development project, Lincoln Yards. This announcement occurs one week after Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts revealed that a United Soccer League team and stadium will be the central focus of the entertainment complex, the Chicago Tribune reported.   The complex delivers three to five entertainment venues along with a reported 20,000-capacity soccer stadium. Each of the smaller venues will range from 100 to 800 seats. Beverly Hills, California-based Live Nation is on board to book and manage events, as well as fund construction.  Pending city and zoning approval, Sterling Bay plans to begin construction within 18 months. A corporate parent of TicketMaster, Live Nation adds cache to the complex. No other retail tenants or partners have been announced. The complex is proposed on the former site of the A. Finkl & Sons steel plant site, a steel mill that operated along the Chicago River in Lincoln Park for 112 years before being demolished in 2016. Amazon representatives were spotted at the site last fall, sparking speculation that the 28-acre tract of land could be proposed for the coveted HQ2. The Lincoln Yards site also includes a former fleet management complex Sterling Bay purchased from the City of Chicago, as well as other smaller pieces of land along the river. Renderings released by Sterling Bay for the entertainment complex reveal a series cantilevered pavilions, along with a sloping, horseshoe shaped soccer stadium. The entertainment complex complements other aspects of the Lincoln Yards development, which will be mixed-use retail, office and residential with an extension to the 606 trail.
Placeholder Alt Text

Spiraling Calatrava sculpture to be installed along the Chicago River

With the ambitious Chicago Spire now resembling nothing more than a privy pit, Santiago Calatrava might not have an opportunity to reshape the Chicago Skyline. But he may yet have an opportunity to help drive a new sense of place along the Chicago River. On May 7, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Calatrava will be designing a sculpture intended for the front lawn of River Point, Pickard Chilton Architects' hyperbolic skyscraper at 444 Lake Street along the north branch of the Chicago River. With a working title of S25, the piece will twist like a wild leafy wing spiraling out from the ground. “The partners of River Point hope Chicagoans will fall in love with the inspired Santiago Calatrava sculpture as they have with Chicago’s Picasso, Kapoor, Chagall, Miro, Plensa, Calder and so many more,” said Larry Levy of Levy Family Partners, part of the ownership group of River Point. Refined public space and art partnerships along the Chicago River are a principal component of the Mayor’s Building on Burnham Plan, which makes investments in natural areas and recreational opportunities at the Lakefront and the river. The Building on Burnham Plan draws insight from Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennett’s 1909 Plan of Chicago, which was only partially implemented but continues to inspire planners and architects, particularly in its suggestions regarding parkland. Construction for the 2,000-foot-tall spiraling condo tower Calatrava designed on the 2.2-acre site in Chicago began in 2007 but stalled in 2008 due to the global financial crisis, leaving a gaping circular hole in Streeterville. After multiple false starts and mitigation techniques, including placing a landscaped berm around the site in 2016 to appease neighbors, Related Midwest has taken over the site, and will be announcing plans for it on May 15. Calatrava’s sculpture will be installed along a portion of the river known as Wolf Point, at the confluence of the north branch and the main branch of the 156-mile river. Fabrication of the sculpture is expected to take 14 months, with its installation slated for Summer 2019.
Placeholder Alt Text

Chicago’s Morton Salt warehouse to become mixed-use redevelopment and riverwalk

Chicago developer R2 Companies completed its $15 million purchase of the Morton Salt warehouse on Elston Avenue along the Chicago River. With this new 4.25-acre property, R2 now owns approximately 1,600 linear feet of riverfront, plus 15 acres of land and 900,000 square feet of buildings along the river and on Goose Island, according to a statement issued by Morton Salt. Since the Chicago City Council approved zoning changes last year to allow non-manufacturing uses in the area, there have been a flurry of new developments like this one. The Morton Salt buildings have about 120,000 square feet of space among them and will be redeveloped into offices, restaurants, and retail and entertainment spaces. The warehouse property also includes 500 feet of direct riverfront. R2 also plans to remediate the site to create a new riverwalk area, water taxi stop, and kayak launch, as well as two salt sheds. The estimated total cost of R2’s investment into repurposing the complex is $20 million. Morton Salt will lease part of the property from R2 for its design and research offices, preserving the iconic Umbrella Girl sign and company slogan ("When it rains, it pours"). “For generations, the Morton Salt site on Elston Avenue has been part of the fabric of Chicago,” Morton Salt CEO Christian Herrmann said in a statement. “It is with that long, rich history in mind that we decided to explore a wide range of possibilities for the future of our iconic site. We knew it was ripe for redevelopment, and we took great care to find the right firm to help bring our vision to life. This redevelopment plan represents the next chapter of the Morton Salt story in Chicago—and we’re incredibly proud to be part of the past, present and future of the Elston Avenue site.” It is estimated that tenants, including Morton Salt, will be able to begin moving into the offices late 2018.
Placeholder Alt Text

Carol Ross Barney will discuss the transformation of the Chicago River this Friday at NYC’s FIT

It is hard to imagine the existence of Chicago or even this country’s industrial revolution without the Chicago River. The State of Illinois's 1887 decision to reverse the flow of water from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River made it possible to move goods through the city and eventually down to the Gulf of Mexico. The river has always had a mythic, if slightly detached, relationship to Chicago until the last few years. But a recent effort has transformed the river and its constructed banks into a major public space for the city, particularly its downtown Loop. No architect has been more responsible for this transformation than Carol Ross Barney. I will be interviewing Barney about her important work transforming the riverside banks into a ‘Riverwalk’ this Friday, May 12th for NYCxDesign's NYC Design Talks. The Q&A—which is free and open to the public—will take place at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Katie Murphy Amphitheater from 3:00 to 4:00pm. See the event's webpage here for more details.
Placeholder Alt Text

City of Chicago asks architects to envision future of riverfront

A group of architectural firms will work with the City of Chicago to develop design concepts for a substantial new portion to the Chicago's quickly developing riverfront. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD), and the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) announced the launch of the Chicago Urban River Edges Ideas Lab. The participating firms include David Adjaye, James Corner Field Operations, Perkins+Will, Ross Barney Architects, Sasaki, Site Design, SOM, Studio Gang Architects, and SWA. “Following the successful completion of the latest sections of the Chicago Riverwalk and with a number of riverfront developments in progress across the city, including the planning process for the North Branch Industrial Corridor around Goose Island, now is the perfect time to engage the architectural community to help us create new river edge guidelines,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Each of the listed firms has extensive experience with designing award-winning riverfronts, public spaces, and parks around the world. The Ideas Lab will gather new concepts from the firms while engaging the local and global community for feedback. Each of the firms will submit more formal design proposals by June 2017, which will then be displayed to the public during the second Chicago Architecture Biennial. The information gathered throughout the process will also be used to inform the city’s riverfront design guidelines, which are planned to be released in 2018. Along with the physical exhibition, WSP Parsons Brnckerhoff, with support from Comcast, will produce digital exhibition components that will include augmented and virtual reality experiences (viewed via cell phones). Additional installations using California company Owlized's virtual reality technology will also be developed. The Chicago Urban River Edges Ideas Lab will be funded by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and Comcast. The announcement by the city came as the Mayor, along with Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, hosted an 18-mayor conference on to discuss the future of urban waterways. The conference, held in downtown Chicago, included input from Jeanne Gang. “On behalf of all of the firms participating in the Ideas Lab, we’re honored and excited to get to work. Chicago’s rivers are an amazing landscape and waterscape that can connect our neighborhoods, enliven our civic life, and provide solace, all at the same time,” said Carol Ross Barney. Ross Barney Architects, along with Sasaki, were responsible for the design of Chicago’s current Riverwalk
Placeholder Alt Text

Studio Gang completes a second public boathouse along the Chicago River

As the first snow of the season fell, a large crowd gathered along a quiet bend in the South Branch of the Chicago River. Jovial groups of teens, community members, and public officials were all there for the opening of the Eleanor Boathouse at Park 571 in the South Side neighborhood of Bridgeport. The boathouse is the second designed by Studio Gang Architects and the final of four boathouses planned for the Chicago River.

The boathouses are part of a much larger movement within the city to connect the public with the underutilized river. Though the river is still heavily polluted—two half-sunken boats can be seen up river from the Eleanor Boathouse—the city is quickly improving its resources along the shore. The boathouses specifically provide space for rowing teams to train, kayaks to be rented, and people to directly access the water.

“The Eleanor Boathouse supports the larger movement of ecological and recreational revival of the Chicago River,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at the opening. “For too long, Chicago residents were cut off from an asset in our own backyard. So today, we are transforming our rivers from relics of our industrial past to anchors for our neighborhoods’ futures.”

Like Studio Gang’s earlier iteration, the Eleanor Boathouse takes its form from the rhythmic movements of rowers. Divided into two structures, undulating rooflines allow for clerestories, which bring soft light into the project. The lofty interior of the 13,171-square-foot boat storage structure can hold up to 75 boats for use by several rowing teams, clubs, and organizations. The other structure is a 5,832-square-foot field house that contains a multipurpose community room, main office, open seating area, restrooms, and showers, and can accommodate 57 “erg” machines, which simulate rowing movements for training purposes. A dark zinc facade wraps most of the project, while one face of the boat storage building is a custom green gradient window screen.

While Chicago’s winters can be brutal, the boathouse is already under heavy use. Rowing teams train in the river nearly year-round and there is also classroom and activity space for after-school and community programs. “This connects us to the origins of the city. The river is the first reason that the native peoples and eventually Fort Dearborn were settled here,” said Studio Gang’s Managing Principal Mark Schendel at the opening. “And it is that potential to come back to that amazing resource and put citizens back on the water. It is the type of project, as architects, we love to do.”

Placeholder Alt Text

Chicago River Trail Action Plan connects Chicago with its river

In an effort to advocate for a continuous trail along vast lengths of the Chicago River, the Active Transportation Alliance recently released its Chicago River Trail Action Plan. The hope is to connect existing trails and parks throughout the city with the North and South Branches of the Chicago river. The plan outlines key steps by which the trail could be realized. Currently, about half of the Chicago River's 27 miles of riverfront have existing trails, with more trails already planned. As the downtown Chicago Riverwalk has recently been completed, the focus on improvements to the river is now shifting out into the neighborhoods. By working with community organizations in neighborhoods along the river, the Active Transportation Alliance specifically highlights seven more miles of riverfront as likely candidates for new trails. Perhaps the most notable recommendation in the Action Plan is to connect some of the city’s newest and proposed parks, as well as multiple proposed developments, to the river. If connected, the network of parks and trails would directly serve the more than 900,000 Chicagoans that live within one mile of the River. On the near north side, the 606 linear park currently stops just short of the river, while the El Paseo Trail on the near south side will have a similar situation. The current redevelopment of the former Lathrop Homes public housing projects and the anticipated redevelopment of the industrial Goose Island both are being planned with the river as a main feature. Yet building along the river is not always a simple matter. In certain sections of the river, no path can be built on land. In these areas floating or suspended decks will have to be used. The Action Plan divides the river into seven zones. Assets and opportunities for each zone are listed along with a list of actionable steps for local stakeholders to take. For many of the zones, plans have already been proposed by designers, planners, and architects. As outlined in the plan, PORT Urbanism is responsible for an intricate path that would connect the 606 park with the river trail, while Ross Barney Architects has designed other sections of the river, including the now completed downtown Riverwalk. Other input on the plan came from a variety of sources including architecture firms such as Perkins & Will, Moss Deisgn, and Hoerr Schaudt, as well as other public space advocacy groups like the Metropolitan Planning Council, the North River Commission, and the Friends of the Chicago River. The full plan can be found here.
Placeholder Alt Text

Chicago and Philadelphia–based PORT Urbanism wants to redesign your city

PORT Urbanism is positioning itself to fill a very particular niche in the world of city making. The office is neither a landscape firm nor an architecture firm alone: It approaches projects with a vision that ranges from grand scheme master plans down to design at a human scale. With the recent addition of a new partner, it now has the pedigree and experience to engage in the high-stakes projects that are so often handed to firms many times its size. More and more often those projects involve the waterfronts of postindustrial cities across the country, and with a name like PORT, the firm is not surprisingly ready for the challenge.

PORT’s new partner, Megan Born, comes to the firm from James Corner Field Operations (JCFO), where she spent eight years as a designer and project manager. While at JCFO, she was lead designer on the much-anticipated Waterfront Seattle Program master plan, as well as project designer on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront in Hong Kong. Her expertise will complement that of PORT partner Christopher Marcinkoski, who was a senior associate at JCFO before cofounding PORT. Marcinkoski, a licensed architect and a Rome Prize Fellow, also contributed expertise in waterfront design, as he was project lead on the Qianhai Water City district of Shenzhen, China, while at JCFO. Both work at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia—Born as a lecturer and Marcinkoski as an associate professor of landscape architecture and urban design.

Currently working with the ambitious young R2 developers in Chicago, PORT is in the process of envisioning the future of Goose Island. An industrial island in the middle of the Chicago River’s North Branch, Goose Island is poised to become one of the city’s most dynamic neighborhoods. Currently, it is completely zoned for industry, but as the surrounding neighborhoods quickly develop, the smart bet is on it becoming more programmatically diverse. PORT’s master plan takes into account the uncertainty of the island’s future while proposing improvements that will benefit whatever eventually happens there.

The island was formed by a canal that was dug to straighten out the river, a common occurrence in 19th-century Chicago. Now, however, that canal is no longer navigable. PORT imagines that this wet, and currently polluted, stretch of water can become an integral and unique part of the river’s rehabilitation into a recreational corridor. It is clear that it is only a matter of time before this prime location, just minutes outside of the downtown, will be more than a sleepy maze of shuttered warehouses and factories. PORT and R2 plan to be there to guide the way.

“Some of the largest attributes of water and waterfronts are their scale and connectivity,” explained Andrew Moddrell, partner and cofounder of PORT. “You always have this edge that you can’t completely occupy: the water. If you can connect the parcels along this edge, you’ll be able to set up the means of an accessibility that is uninterrupted and that unlocks new territories of the city. Previously all of these places were productive industrially by maximizing this connectivity. Now they are ripe again to be reconnected.”

Though PORT may be making a name for itself with waterscape projects, what defines the practice is its particular approach. Whether a waterfront, and urban park, or a former industrial district, PORT is not interested in simply drawing large arrows on maps and saying how great it would be to have a bike share program in the area. Instead, it does the math, talks to the stakeholders, and designs a way to achieve their vision, down to the individual’s experience. This separates them from other landscape firms that might only focus on the space around the buildings, as well as from the urban planner who so often provides bullet point guidance without a true design component. Add in the fact that two of the partners are licensed architects, and the firm’s thorough approach begins to make sense. There are few firms that are able, or willing, to take on the complex types of projects that PORT has made its bread and butter.

This article was part of our Oct. 12 issue which focused on how water is shaping today’s landscape architecture and urbanism. Communities face deluges and droughts—for some, the stakes can be survival itself, but others see opportunities for decadence. To explore these stories from around the U.S. and the world, click here.

Placeholder Alt Text

Chicago digs deep to fight flooding, but the city’s geology may provide another solution

When it rains, Chicago faces challenges from above and below: With 25 percent of the city paved-over, rain can't reach the soil and absorb the onslaught of water. An aging and under-capacity sewer system causes regular flooding and even sewage discharge into nearby water bodies. The challenge is immense—for Chicago, one inch of rainfall equals four billion gallons. Until recently Chicago’s answer to the problem has been an infrastructure project no less than epic—read costly—in scale. But one landscape architect is leading an effort to change how the city can unlock its hidden potential for storm water management. Chicago’s Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP), also known as the Deep Tunnel Project, is the latest in the city’s massive water projects. Following in the footsteps of extensive canal digging around the turn of the 19th century, the TARP is a 50-year project that started in 1975. Completed 19 years ago, phase one of the project includes over 100 miles of tunnels ranging up to 33 feet in diameter. These tunnels are reservoirs for over two billion gallons of sewage overflow, waiting to be treated. Surface reservoirs are planned to hold another 15 billion gallons when the project is complete in 2029. In the past 30 years, the project has had some success in mitigating the situation, but at a cost of $3 billion so far. Some feel there is another, more immediate way to help at the neighborhood level. Mary Pat McGuire, landscape architect and assistant professor at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, has been working with her students, geologists and coastal researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey and Illinois State Geological Survey to map porous, naturally occurring sand deposits located just under Chicago’s surface that could absorb rainfall. To find the best test sites for anti-flooding interventions, McGuire is matching the deposits, located along the Lake Michigan shoreline and running up to 25 feet deep, with heavily paved areas that flood frequently. Next, she aims to find local partners—likely community advocacy groups—who will support her to implement design prototypes that could include de-paving, installing dry wells and monitoring equipment, and even introducing new absorbent materials. What would such an intervention look like? "Pattern is going to be an important way for people to recognize that something is happening there…[that] it's not an accident." Abandoned or underused sites could also take up a variety of public programming over time. But first and foremost, "the ultimate goal [is] designing water where it falls."
Even with the massive TARP project underway, parts of Chicago may not be getting the desperate attention they need when it comes to flooding. According to McGuire, “first Chicago” gets more preferential treatment while other areas are neglected (as documented by flood insurance claims). “There's an inequity in terms of the ways [city government] is dealing with the situation." She believes community organizers and alderman in affected areas will need to push for on-the-ground solutions. “If Chicagoans understood the cause of their regular and widespread flooding,” she added, “They might rise up and say 'City, you're not providing enough public works for us.'" She argued that working back into the paved surface across the City would alleviate problems for all, including overflows into the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.
Placeholder Alt Text

A new proposal would turn a stagnant abandoned Chicago waterway into a community amenity

Few people, architects or otherwise, have thought about the Chicago River as much as Ross Barney Architects. The firm’s experience includes the ever-growing Riverwalk in Chicago’s downtown, studies for the river as a transportation corridor, and extensive time spent working with the city on major infrastructural projects. When given a charge to propose a speculative project for the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s 50 Designers, 50 Ideas, 50 Wards exhibition, it took the chance to expand on a project that had been floating (pun intended) around the office. The result is an urban natural space where there is currently a smelly abandoned channel in the city’s Little Village neighborhood.     

The South Side neighborhood is one of the most underserved, in terms of public space, in the entire city. Even worse, the neighborhood has the Collateral Channel, which once connected the natural channel of the Chicago River to the Shipping and Sanitation Channel. The natural Chicago River no longer exists, so the stagnant body serves no one. As the canal is no longer used, it is no longer dredged, which has led to its polluted bed having a severe methane-leeching problem. This, in turn, has prompted the local nickname of Ass Creek, due to the intolerable smell that bubbles up and wafts over Little Village.

Ross Barney Architects saw more than just a putrid nuisance in the Collateral Channel, though. Instead, the office took the opportunity to connect to a project the Chicago Department of Transportation is already spearheading called the Little Village Paseo. The Paseo is planned to be a linear park that will take the place of a former rail line through the neighborhood. So Ross Barney envisioned turning Ass Creek into Ass(et) Creek, a place where the community could directly interact with the river. Ass(et) Creek proposes to continue the Paseo to the river via the channel.

Though Ass(et) Creek is a speculative proposal, the work on the channel and the movement toward the river is already beginning. The city has started to pump water through the channel, and other studies have been done in an attempt to counteract the smell. Yet if anyone has experience with working with the river in Chicago, it is Ross Barney. The office has spent well over a decade working the city’s Riverwalk, navigating the politics and construction issues associated with building in water.

Ross Barney Architects see Ass(et) Creek as larger than just a luxury amenity. The big picture includes bringing access to clean recreation and athletic spaces to an area that needs it. From there, the firm imagines a new water-taxi stop at the site that would provide the neighborhood with a direct connection to the downtown. The relationship of Chicagoans to the river would be quickly reversed from odorous disdain to point of pride.

The vision of a Chicago River that is clean enough to swim in is shared by many, including the mayor and even President Obama. Though that day might not be right around the corner, it is coming, and Ross Barney Architects is ready to give everyone a place to jump in.

This article was part of our Oct. 12 issue which focused on how water is shaping today’s landscape architecture and urbanism. Communities face deluges and droughts—for some, the stakes can be survival itself, but others see opportunities for decadence. To explore these stories from around the U.S. and the world, click here.